Founded by a former prosecutor, representation of crime victims is an important part of Bailey Law Firm’s practice. Victim representation can come about in two ways: 1) Representation of a crime victim as a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit that arises out of a criminal act; and 2) Representation of a crime victim as a party with important constitutional rights in the criminal proceedings against the wrongdoer.
The most common criminal charges that also result in a civil lawsuit are manslaughter, aggravated assault, and sexual abuse or assault. In these cases, there can be people or entity wrongdoers who are liable for the victim’s injury or death, in addition to the criminal perpetrator. For example, in a vehicular manslaughter or vehicular aggravated assault criminal case, if the driver was impaired by alcohol consumed at an establishment licensed to sell liquor, then the bar or restaurant may be responsible fort the crash as well.
As another example, aggravated assault, including physical violence, shootings and stabbings, may be a result of negligent security that gave the criminal sufficient opportunity to hurt or kill. In Arizona, owners and tenants owe a duty to people lawfully on their property to take reasonable steps to keep the premise safe from foreseeable criminal activity. A common example is an attack in the parking lot of store or restaurant due to lack of security, cameras, or lighting.
Additionally, sexual abuse and sexual assault may be a result of negligent hiring or negligent supervision which gave the perpetrator access to victims and opportunity to commit the crime. For child victims, this can occur most commonly in school or day care settings and for adult victims, this can occur most commonly in long-term care settings. Employers have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable criminal acts of employees. A breach of that duty can include failure to properly screen an employee before hiring, failure to appropriately investigate relevant complaints of the employee or other indicators of notice to the employer that the employee might commit such criminal acts, or failure to adequately supervise the employee. Of note, Arizona passed a law in 2018 shielding employers from negligent hiring claims solely for hiring convicted felons. This law does not however preclude liability for failure to properly screen potential employees or, for example, allowing known predators to interact with children or vulnerable adults.
Importantly, crime victims may have a civil case even absent a criminal charge or conviction. Criminal convictions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, as compared to the more probable than not burden of proof required in civil cases. Additionally, the legal theories of liability in civil cases are often different than the theory of responsibility in criminal cases. No one is better equipped to handle such cases than a firm founded by a former criminal prosecutor.
As it relates to victim representation in criminal proceedings, the Victims’ Bill of Rights in the Arizona Constitution provide for important rights afforded crime victims throughout all stages of criminal prosecution, including the charging decision, plea offer and sentencing. If you or a loved one were the victim of a crime, it can be very helpful to have an attorney by your side to represent your interests and be your voice throughout what can be a daunting and frustrating process.