SURFSIDE, Fla. – Elected leaders and government agencies have vowed to uncover what caused Champlain Towers South to suddenly collapse, killing dozens as they slept — and everyone from construction contractors to town building officials to condo board members will be scrutinized for their role.

Lawsuits filed by survivors and relatives of the dead could lead to multimillion-dollar judgments. Professional licenses may be lost, fines levied, people fired.

But can anyone face criminal charges, or even jail time, over the tragedy?

If past cases are any precedent, it would be a tough case to make. Legal experts say building a criminal case for the deaths will be extremely challenging under Florida law, given all the building plans, construction work, maintenance and repair decisions — or lack of decisions — over the last 40-plus years that will be examined in the unprecedented collapse.

"You can go to any condo building in South Florida, and you're going to find water damage, flaking concrete and deterioration. You'd have to prove that someone knew this was an imminent danger and ignored it," said prominent South Florida defense lawyer Roy Black. "An inspector would have to have told the [homeowners association], 'Hey this place could fall down,' or 'This column supporting the building is in danger of collapsing.' Short of that, they're not going to be able to bring a criminal case."

Ultimately, the decision will fall to state prosecutors, who likely will rely on findings from a federal team of scientists and forensic engineers about the cause of the collapse, as well as evidence uncovered by Miami-Dade police homicide detectives or other experts analyzing the catastrophe.

State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle could eventually file charges directly, or it could fall to Miami-Dade's grand jury, which can indict people or companies, as it examines broader safety issues raised by the tragedy.

The Miami-Dade police probe resembles, on an even more massive scale, the one into the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse in March 2018. The bridge, which was under construction, collapsed onto Southwest Eighth Street, killing five people in cars, as well as a construction worker.

Fernández Rundle drew criticism shortly after the collapse for telling TV reporters that charges appeared "improbable at this point." She later defended herself, telling the Miami Herald she was speaking in general about "the complexity of these cases." A federal transit safety board would later blame the bridge collapse on a major design error and a lack of oversight.

Still, three years after the tragedy, the state attorney has yet to decide whether anyone involved in the project will face criminal charges. An office spokesman declined to comment on when the bridge investigation might be concluded.

The Surfside probe could last even longer.

The 12-story, 136-unit condo in the beach town of Surfside collapsed in the middle of the night on June 24, killing at least 79 people, leaving dozens more missing and sparking a massive and complicated rescue and recovery effort.

Civil lawsuits are a given in most U.S. structure failures. So far, more than a dozen have been filed in Miami-Dade circuit court.

But absent overwhelming evidence, it's common for prosecutors in these types of cases to conclude that there is not enough for a criminal case.

A person or company in civil court can be found negligent — but the bar is much higher in criminal court. For a criminal manslaughter case, Florida prosecutors would have to prove people involved with the building acted so negligently that it amounted to a "reckless disregard for human life" or had "a grossly careless disregard for the safety and welfare of the public."

The sheer scale and scope of the Surfside disaster will make the criminal probe unique.

The Miami-Dade police homicide bureau, which most visibly investigates stabbings, shootings and other murders, is also tasked with investigating unnatural deaths to include industrial accidents and plane crashes.

As search-and-rescue workers have scoured the massive rubble pile, teams of Miami-Dade homicide detectives have been on scene, helping document each time a body is found, and notify relatives of those identified as having died.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office has assigned senior prosecutors to assist. One of them, Laura Adams, is also the lead prosecutor assigned to review the FIU bridge collapse. Another is Chief Assistant State Attorney Stephen Talpins.

Their analysis will eventually rely heavily on what is uncovered by experts from National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is leading the probe into what caused the collapse.

In asking the Miami-Dade grand jury to explore building safety issues arising from the Surfside collapse, Fernández Rundle signaled that a criminal probe wouldn't be the thrust of this jury's term "pending the conclusion of the long-term investigation that will yield the cause of the collapse."