In some situations, you may be able to use civil compromise to get criminal charges dropped.
The way civil compromise works is that in exchange for you fully compensating the victims of a crime you were involved with, the charges are dropped. This allows you to walk away from the situation without a criminal record.
Examples of situations where this is used include:
- Shoplifting cases
- Assault cases
- Hit-and-run cases
- Some petty theft cases
Both the judge and the prosecutor have to agree to the civil compromise before the charges are dropped.
The topic of civil compromise in California is discussed in California Penal Code 1377. When you read through the law, you’ll learn two important things. First, you’ll learn that the only time a civil compromise is an option is when the charges are for a misdemeanor. If you’ve been charged with a felony, there’s no way you can try to use civil compromise to get out of the charges.
The second thing you’ll learn is that there are some instances where even if you’re being charged with a misdemeanor, the option of civil compromise is taken off the table. Specific instances when you’re not allowed to use civil compromise to have charges dropped include:
- When the crime was committed during a riot, an officer was injured.
- If your intention at the time of the crime was to commit a felony.
When civil compromise is possible, a series of very specific events must take place. First, the victim must appear in court. One of the most important things they’ll have to do while they are there is acknowledge that the defendant has indeed provided them with complete compensation. This would include paying for any property that was damaged, returning or paying for stolen items or covering any medical expenses and lost wages the victim suffered as a result of the defendant’s actions.
The second thing the victim must do is explain to the court that because they were fully compensated, they have no desire to pursue criminal prosecution.
After listening to the victim, the judge and prosecutor will look at the details of the case and determine if compensating the victim is fair. If they feel that it is, the court will drop all charges.
While all charges are dropped, and there is no longer a legal record of the crime, don’t assume that people who know you won’t find out about the situation. There will still be a record of your arrest and it’s possible your name will appear in the court section of the local newspapers.