Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

A Collision At The Crossroads Of Criminal And Civil Law: Criminal Judgments Of Restitution

The aftermath of a collision between two cars at an intersection can be horrifying.  However, determining exactly what led to the collision can be complicated.  The law is no different.  When two laws, meant to remedy the same wrong, arrive at the same intersecting spot simultaneously, conflicts are inevitable.  Finding the right legal solution to the conflicts can often prove difficult.

Mills & Associates Nevada Coverage Lawyers 702-240-6060One of those troublesome legal intersections is found at the crossroads of civil law and criminal law.  Courts developed the civil law system to resolve disputes between individuals where a one party is alleged to have caused the other damage.  For example, negligence suits are meant to sort out who is at fault and how much in damages are due.

However, there are times when the criminal law system tries to do the same thing, most notably where a criminal court orders a criminal defendant to pay restitution to an injured party.  Nevada criminal courts can order restitution to the victims of crimes in a number of instances.  For examples, NRS 176.033 allows the criminal court to order restitution where a sentence of imprisonment is involved.  NRS 176A.430 allows a court to order restitution as a condition of probation.  Whatever the circumstances, the criminal court is authorized to enter a Judgment of Restitution, thereby compelling the criminal defendant to pay a monetary amount to the victim based upon the injury caused by the criminal act.

When a defendant’s actions amount to both a tort and a crime, a number of questions and conflicts arise.  Mills & Associates has been asked to sort out many of these conflicts.  The most common situations arise where the defendant is charged with either involuntary manslaughter (arising under NRS 200.070 where an intoxicated driving accident results in death) or vehicular manslaughter (arising under NRS 484B.657 where simple negligence results in death).  In the adjudication of the criminal charges, the prosecutor may seek a restitution payment for the victim.  The civil attorney, who often is hired later, is then left to sort out the effects of the criminal law’s judgment on the civil defendant.

The questions arising from these conflicting legal structures are many.  Under what circumstance is criminal restitution an appropriate means by which to resolve a dispute and adjudicate damages arising from a single criminal / tortious act?  If the criminal court orders restitution, and the defendant satisfies the criminal judgment, can the victim then turn around and sue a criminal defendant in a civil court for more damages?  Is an insurance company obligated to indemnify its insured against a Judgment of Restitution entered in a criminal court?  These are just a few of the issues that come to mind.

In future blog posts, we will try to sort out these questions and see what we at Mills & Associates can do to set down the rules of the road for handling this difficult intersection.

Mills & Associates Coverage Lawyers 702-240-6060

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