What is a civil compromise and how do I get one?

Many people inquire as to how they can avoid a criminal conviction in their case despite the fact that the evidence overwhelmingly points to their guilt. One possibility is by way of a Civil Compromise. California has a statute which allows for some cases to be dismissed for no other reason than that the victim of the crime is requesting it.

When a person injured by an act constituting a misdemeanor has a civil remedy (you could be sued for it), the criminal offense may be compromised. The statute exempts certain offenses from Civil Compromise such as domestic violence, elder and child abuse, and offenses done with an intent to commit a felony. The cases most often compromised are thefts and assaults and batteries. We have also been able to have charges of property damage and hit and run be dismissed by way of a Civil Compromise.

How does it work? Your attorney will attempt to contact the victim to discuss the possibility of such a resolution. It must be determined what it would take to make the victim “satisfied” under the law. In some cases it may mean restitution for loss or injury. In other cases it may mean an apology. Every case is different and unique. It is important to warn defendants who have been charged with a criminal offense not to attempt such a settlement on their own. Attempts to bribe, coerce, intimidate or extort witnesses/victims could lead to further, more serious felony charges.

If the victim is willing to reach a Civil Compromise, the attorney will prepare an appropriate affidavit for the victim to sign. This document will be brought to Court and submitted to the Judge. The Judge, in his/her discretion, can accept or reject it. It is not binding on the Court. Some judges look to see what the prosecutor or District Attorney has to say. However, the law does not require the consent of the prosecution. If the Civil Compromise is accepted by the Judge, the matter is dismissed and any bail is exonerated or released.