Criminal v. Civil

The legal system in the United States addresses the wrongdoings that people commit with two different types of cases: civil and criminal cases. Crimes are generally offenses against the state  or a city, even if the immediate harm is done to an individual, and are accordingly prosecuted by the state or the city prosecutors. Civil cases on the other hand, typically involve disputes between individuals regarding the legal duties and responsibilities they owe to one another. These cases are adjudicated through civil lawsuits. Although there is some overlap, there are several ways in which you can tell the differences between a criminal case and a civil case.

Here are some of the key differences between a criminal case and a civil case: Crimes are considered offenses against the state, city or society as a whole; Criminal offenses and civil offenses are generally different in terms of their punishment; The standard of proof is also very different in a criminal case versus a civil case; Criminal cases almost always allow for a trial by jury; A defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney and the protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable

That means that even though one person might murder a particular person, the murder itself is considered an offense to everyone in society. Accordingly, crimes against the state are prosecuted by the state, and the prosecutor (not the victim) files the case in court as a representative of the state. If it were a civil case, then the wronged party would file the case.

Civil cases generally only result in monetary damages or orders to do or not do something, known as injunctions. Note that a criminal case may involve both jail time and monetary punishments in the form of fines. In general, because criminal cases have greater consequences – the possibility of jail and even death – criminal cases have many more protections in place and are harder to prove.

Crimes must generally be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt”, whereas civil cases are proved by lower standards of proof such as “the preponderance of the evidence” (which essentially means that it was more likely than not that something occurred in a certain way). The difference in standards exists because civil liability is considered less blameworthy and because the punishments are less severe.

Criminal cases almost always allow for a trial by jury. Civil cases do allow juries in some instances, but many civil cases will be decided by a judge.

A defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney, and if they can’t afford one, the state must provide an attorney. Defendants in a civil case don’t have the right to an attorney, so if they can’t afford one, they’ll have to represent themselves.

The protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable (such as the protection against illegal searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment). Many of these well known protections aren’t available to a defendant in a civil case.

Although criminal and civil cases are treated very differently, many people often fail to recognize that the same conduct can result in both criminal and civil liability. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this is the OJ Simpson trial. The same conduct led to a murder trial (criminal) and a wrongful death trial (civil).

In part because of the different standards of proof, there wasn’t enough evidence for a jury to decide that OJ Simpson was guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” in the criminal murder case. In the civil trial, however, the jury found enough evidence to conclude that OJ Simpson wrongfully caused his wife’s death by a “preponderance of the evidence”.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

Leave a reply