According to David Baer Attorney, it is possible for civil suits to spill over into criminal law. In Minnesota, it is therefore very important to work together with local attorneys to ensure this does not happen. After all, nobody wants to go to court for a civil case that could have been resolved over email, only to then need a lawyer to keep them out of jail!
David Baer Attorney on Avoiding Criminal Charges
One of the reasons why it is so important to work together with a lawyer with experience in criminal defense if there is a chance that a criminal charge will be brought, is so that they can help stop the prosecutor from asking for criminal charges. All lawyers must follow the Minnesota rules of professional conduct as well as the ABA model rules. Explicitly state that a settlement agreement must have a forbear instigating prosecution clause included in it.
The American Bar Association has a standing committee on professional ethics. In 1992 they formally stated the opinion that a lawyer is entitled to threaten with criminal charges in a civil matter under certain circumstances. Those circumstances are:
- That they relate to the civil claim.
- That both the civil and the criminal claim have a legal basis.
- That lawyer does not use the threat of criminal charges as a form of influence over the civil outcome.
One of the key ways in which a criminal charge can be avoided if the above three requirements are met is by agreeing to a settlement. Unfortunately, there are a lot of complexities involved in this, above and beyond the standard complexities of the law. One of those is that it could be seen that threatening with criminal action is a form of tampering with the witness. Indeed, it’s not unheard of for individuals to class it as a form of blackmail, forcing them to agree to settle in a civil lawsuit just so that they can avoid a potential criminal charge. The added difficulty is that the criminal and penal code in Minnesota are particularly complicated.
Then, there are cases in which criminal charges absolutely must be brought. There are a number of mandatory reporting acts, for instance for crimes against financial institutions. Additionally, anyone who provides false testimony would face criminal charges. It is very important therefore that lawyers understand which criminal court jurisdiction their cases come under, while at the same time making it clear to their clients that there is never a guarantee that a criminal charge won’t be brought if there are grounds for them, even if settlement can be reached.
Anyone who is accused of a wrongdoing, be that civilly or criminally, must seek professional legal assistance immediately. It is recommended to speak to a Minnesota attorney who is experienced in both criminal and civil law, thereby covering all angles. In so doing, should criminal charges follow from a civil suit, everybody will be fully prepared.