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Primary Differences Between a Criminal and a Civil Case

Seeing as how Law & Order and our government civics class can only cover so much material, it’s about time we fill in the blanks by clarifying our legal justice system. Two types of cases exist within the US legal system, civil and criminal. Criminal cases deal with an offense against the state and are almost always prosecuted by the state, while civil cases resolve issues between individuals such as personal injuries which require a NYC injury lawyer. Let’s dig a bit deeper.

Criminal lawsuits deal with punishment in regards to fines paid to the state and jail or prison time. Because crimes are viewed as attacks against the state, or society as a whole, these cases are prosecuted by the state. Offenses such as murder or theft are thought of as crimes against society as a whole. This is the reason a prosecutor –and not the victim- files a case in court.

Criminal and civil lawsuits can be brought against anybody. Civil lawsuits can arise during a criminal trial if the victim believes that they should be compensated monetarily for how they have been wronged. The aim of civil lawsuits is financial punishment for the accused and/or monetary compensation for the plaintiff.

The barometer we use to measure whether a party is guilty or not slightly differs in civil and criminal cases. Prosecutors in criminal trials must prove that crimes have been committed ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ However, in civil cases the standards of proof are lowered so that lawyers need only show that it was more likely than not that the accused wronged the victim. The standard of proof used in a civil case is called the ‘preponderance of evidence.’

As far as juries are concerned, criminal cases will almost always have a jury whereas civil cases will rarely ever use a jury. Civil cases are decided via a judge.

The last significant difference between these two cases is that criminal cases always provide lawyers for those that can’t afford them. Defendants in civil cases, however, are not awarded such a luxury.

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