The short answer is yes. Courts in Illinois allow plaintiffs, who are also victims of a crime, to use the criminal conviction of the defendant in a case for damages based on the criminal conduct for which the defendant was convicted. Illinois judges will not allow a plaintiff to use a criminal conviction in every case. However, if your judge allows you to use the defendant’s conviction as proof that he or she is liable for damages, you will have a tremendous advantage at trial because that ruling will relieve you, the plaintiff, from having to prove that the defendant acted negligently or wantonly. Therefore, it is essential for your Illinois car accident lawyer to fight hard to persuade the trial judge to admit evidence of the defendant’s civil conviction.
Illinois courts take advantage of the legal doctrine of collateral estoppel as often as possible. The legal doctrine of collateral estoppel keeps parties fromre-litigating identical claims that courts previously resolved. Illinois judges may permit the useof a criminal conviction as collateral estoppel in civil trials if the following three elements are satisfied. First, the criminal case must be completed. In other words, there must be a final judgment. A final judgment in a criminal case is a verdict of guilty or a plea of guilty. Secondly, the defendant in the criminal case must also be the defendant in the civil case. Finally, the judge must weigh the level of unfairness of allowing the plaintiff to use the defendant’s prior conviction against preventing the defendant from defendant his or her case at a civil trial. If the criminal case didnot reach the final judgment stage, then it would be unfair to allow the plaintiff to use the conviction against the defendant in the civil case because of the change that an appellate court might overturn the defendant’s convictionin criminal court.
Also, the defendant must have the opportunity to present relevant defenses in the criminal trial that would be relevant to the civil trial. If not, then the plaintiff cannot use the conviction.
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