Q: Can you explain double jeopardy and why, if someone is tried for murder (like Robert Blake), but acquitted of the crime, they still can be found liable in a civil case for millions of dollars? A: The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads in pertinent part: “Nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This clause seeks to prevent prosecutorial abuse by the government, which otherwise may try to repeatedly prosecute someone for the same alleged criminal offense. The rule on double jeopardy is consistent with a basic legal principle known as res judicata, which precludes relitigating the same claims among the same parties (or those in privity with them), when those claims already have been brought to final judgment. With regard to winning the criminal case but losing in civil court: There are different burdens of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt in the criminal court, but a preponderance of the evidence only in the civil setting). Moreover, the defendant in the civil matter can be called to testify by the other side, whereas in the criminal case the defendant is not required to testify at all. Double jeopardy has to do with being charged twice for the same criminal offense or offenses under the penal code, not civil wrongs such as negligence which likely fall under the civil code, or are of a common law nature. – A.D., Manhattan Beach Self-help, small claims A reminder for many of you who have submitted questions about small claims court: Online, at the self-help Web site of the Los Angeles Superior Court (www.courtinfo.ca.gov/selfhelp), you can find very useful information about small claims court. Also, you can talk with the small claims courts adviser during weekdays at 213-974-9759. Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach-based attorney with 29 years of experience who has arbitrated and mediated many cases. His column appears each Wednesday. E-mail questions and comments to him at [email protected] or mail to him at Ask The Lawyer, Daily Breeze, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503-4077. This column is a summary of the law, and not a substitute for legal consultation on any particular case.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Q uestion: We loaned money to a “friend in need,” secured by a second trust deed on her home. When she could not pay the balance due, we gave her a 90-day extension. She assured us the senior loan was current. Unfortunately, she was not truthful. We may wind up losing our money because the senior trust deed is foreclosing, and there is not sufficient equity to cover us. Can we still pursue the borrower even if we are wiped out by the first? – B.W., Rancho Palos Verdes Answer: Yes, there is a remedy in California known as “judicial foreclosure.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Unlike the more typical foreclosure, which commences with the recording of a Notice of Default and does not involve court action, a judicial foreclosure is a lawsuit. You must serve the papers, ultimately prove that the borrower is in default, and if you wind up losing all of part of your loan, you can seek to “preserve the deficiency.” This means you can pursue collection of what you lose from the borrower. However, California is an “anti-deficiency” state. Thus, in a non-judicial foreclosure on a residential loan, if you get wiped out, or only recover a part of your loan, you are not entitled to seek any deficiency from the borrower at all. The judicial foreclosure remedy is the exception to the anti-deficiency rule in California. There are real differences between a non-judicial and a judicial foreclosure, over and above that one is non-judicial and the other plays out in court. For example, the time frame for the borrower to cure the default can be much longer in a judicial foreclosure. Therefore, I suggest you consult with a qualified lawyer to discuss the judicial foreclosure process so that you evaluate your options a little more prudently.