Civil Charges for Criminal Property Damage

by admin on March 18, 2011

The teens from the malicious damage to personal property charges in Massachusetts, may not be off the hook yet.

Despite getting a relative slap on the wrists for massive damage to a home in East Bridgewater after a series of parties lead to between $50,000-$80,000 worth of damage, the Boston Channel reports that the family is suing the teens for the value of the damage.

Under Massachusetts malicious damage laws, the teens could have been charged with up to 3 times the cost of the damage, but apparently that didn’t happen in this case. It is possible that the prosecutors weren’t sure they could prove the charges, and agreed to a relatively minor penalty in exchange for a plea deal.

But as any defense lawyer will tell you, the standard of prove is much different in a civil lawsuit. In a criminal case, you must prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. But to collect money for damage, the standard is typically a “preponderance of evidence”, which is considered less strict that beyond a reasonable doubt.

Because the criminal judge did not order restitution as part of the guilty plea for whatever reason, the family is exercising it’s legal rights in suing for the value of the damage, to try to be made whole after this difficult matter.

This case has generated a lot of controversy in Massachusetts, touching on areas of parental control and teen responsibility. So it will be interesting how the civil case plays itself out.


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