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What is the difference between civil and criminal cases?

What Are Criminal Cases And Civil Cases? Understanding The Key Differences


Legal cases can be classified as either civil or criminal. But the specific details of each case will determine whether a person’s actions result in a criminal or civil lawsuit.

Charges in criminal lawsuits are typically made by the government and involve matters that have an impact on society. Contrary to that, civil lawsuits, also known as personal injury cases are brought by people or businesses looking for monetary compensation after an incident or injury.

This article focuses on the key differences between these two types of cases, and also explains how can they overlap in certain cases.

What Are Criminal Cases?

Criminal law deals with prosecuting crimes like rape, murder, drunk driving, drug dealing, and fraud that have societal repercussions. If left unaddressed, these actions often have a negative impact on society as a whole.

A sentence will be given to a person after a court finds him guilty of a crime. If a federal crime was committed, the sentence may include a requirement that the offender pays a heavy fine and/or make restitution to the victim, serve time in jail, be subject to community supervision by a court employee known as a U.S. probation officer, or sometimes a combination of these three options.

What Are Civil Cases?

A civil case is initiated when an individual or organization (such as a corporation or the government), alleges that the defendant has breached a legal duty to the plaintiff. Plaintiff refers to the party who initiates the case.  The terms “parties” or “litigants” are also used to refer to both the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff may ask the court to order the defendant to perform the duty, compensate for the damage done, or both. Respecting rights established by the Constitution or by federal or state law is an obligation under the law.

Civil cases include incidents like slip-and-fall injuries, car accidents, or medical malpractice. In such cases, the injured party is harmed as a result of the other party’s negligence, but that doesn’t prove the defendant a criminal. Civil lawsuits can be filed in both state and federal courts. A person residing at Los Angeles may try best civil rights law firm in Beverly Hills, CA.

Burden Of Proof In Criminal And Civil Cases

In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove that the accused executed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” These proceedings usually take place in a courtroom, where an unbiased jury delivers a verdict after hearing the case.

However, the burden of proof in civil cases is lower than in criminal cases, and it is called “a preponderance of the evidence.” It implies that in order to succeed in court, the plaintiff just needs to prove that defendant was more than 50% at fault. Instead of a jury, judges rule in the majority of civil cases.

When Can Criminal Case And Civil Lawsuit Cross Paths?

As already discussed, civil and criminal cases are handled differently and carry different burdens of proof and sanctions. However, in certain cases, one defendant may be subject to both a criminal and civil lawsuit for the same crime.

Consider the case of a murderer as an example. A criminal trial would take place due to the seriousness of the crime and the violation of a law that intends to maintain a safe society. Regardless of whether the defendant is found guilty of the crime in a criminal court, the victim’s family members may still file a wrongful death claim against the defendant in civil court.

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