Basic Differences Between Criminal and Civil Cases

Civil vs. Criminal CaseThere are certain situations when a person can face both criminal and civil charges for the commission of a single act. However, criminal and civil cases are different, although both seek punishment and can be filed for one single act.

Jail or Monetary Damages

The main difference between a criminal and civil case is the outcome when a defendant is proven guilty. The consequence of a criminal case – since it is an offense against the state – is usually jail time or even death in certain places, while civil cases will award monetary damages to the victim or their family. There are also instances when the defendant is asked to do, or not do, something after being found guilty in a civil suit.

It is the state that prosecutes crimes against society or the state, like murder or homicide.  Prosecutors file the case automatically especially if the loss of life is involved. A criminal act is a violation of a prescribed behavior under the law. In a civil case, the party wronged is responsible for filing the case.

Jury or Judge explains that in general, criminal cases are tried by a jury and while certain civil cases are also tried similarly, it is usually a case that is settled before a judge. In a criminal case, the defendant is entitled to a criminal defense lawyer and will be provided one in case he cannot afford the services of a legal counsel. In a civil case, the plaintiff must pay for an attorney, unless he can defend himself.

Burden of Proof

Since crimes against the state are more serious in nature, a prosecutor’s task is to prove before the jury or judge that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. In criminal law, doubt is based on a reason and common sense when all evidence have been carefully considered and studied.

The burden of proof for a plaintiff is lower. The preponderance of evidence is basis for prosecuting meaning more than half of the evidence presented must support the legal assertion that led to the suit.

Because the consequence of the action in a criminal suit is greater, it becomes harder to prove the commission of the crime due to more protections in place in favor of the defendant. Still,criminal and civil cases are not mutually exclusive and can be filed for the same crime.