Question: Can someone charged with a crime stay the civil case connected with that charged crime until the criminal case is over?
Answer: Probably Not.
On September 23, 2011, the State of Indiana filed charges against the Defendant for the alleged murder of his neighbor on September 20, 2011. On September 27, 2011,the victim’s family filed a civil complaint alleging that the Defendant caused the wrongful death of the victim. The victim’s family also moved for an injunction to prevent Defendant from transferring or encumbering his real property to preserve the property for availability to be used to pay damages to the victim’s family. On October 7, 2011, the victim’s family served a request for admissions and interrogatories upon the Defendant at the jail to which he filed an objection to the request for admission and a motion to stay discovery in the civil proceeding until the threat of the criminal prosecution passed. The trial court issued an order denying the motion to stay the civil proceeding pending the resolution of his criminal case. In denying the motion, the trial court concluded that the interest in an expeditious resolution of the civil case outweighed the burden on the Defendant to choose between responding to the civil allegations or his right against self-incrimination to which the Defendant appealed.
On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to stay the civil proceeding against him pending the resolution in his criminal case. He contends that, although the United States Constitution does not ordinarily require a stay of civil proceedings pending the outcome of criminal proceedings, when proceedings arising from the same transactions or conduct are pending simultaneously, a trial court must consider several factors to determine on a case-by-case basis whether a stay is warranted. The Defendant asserts that, in the present case, a review of these factors show that the trial court did not properly consider and fully apply the factors because the stay was necessary to protect his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. While a trial court has the inherent power to stay its proceedings, the United States Constitution does not require a stay of civil proceedings pending the outcome of criminal proceedings. However, a trial court may use its discretion to determine whether to stay civil proceedings when the interests of justice require such action. The ultimate question, therefore, is whether the court should exercise its discretion in order to avoid placing the defendants in the position of having to choose between risking a loss in their civil cases by invoking their Fifth Amendment rights, or risking conviction in their criminal cases by waiving their Fifth Amendment rights and testifying in the civil proceedings. In deciding whether to stay civil proceedings where a similar criminal action is brought before the completion of the civil proceedings, a court may consider a variety of factors. They include: (1) the interest of the plaintiff in proceeding expeditiously with the litigation or any particular aspect of it, and the potential prejudice to the plaintiff of a delay; (2) the burden which any particular aspect of the proceedings may impose on the defendant; (3) the convenience of the court in the management of its cases, and the efficient use of judicial resources; (4) the interests of persons not parties to the civil litigation; and (5) the interest of the public in pending civil and criminal litigation. After reviewing the evidence presented and the trial court’s consideration of the factors, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the motion to stay the civil proceeding pending the resolution of his criminal proceeding. 986 N.E. 2nd 821