What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases
In the United States, the legal system addresses crimes in two different case types, civil and criminal. Crimes are actions or omissions that can be prosecuted accordingly by the state and punishable by law. Civil cases often constitute individual legal obligations and responsibilities between each other and are adjudicated through civil lawsuits. Even though crimes civil cases overlap a bit, both are handled differently, which distinguishes the difference between them both.
Criminal Case and Civil Case Distinctions
There are several differences between criminal cases and civil ones, with the first one being that crimes are offenses against the state and society, and civil cases are not. Civil cases involve disputes between people or businesses. Furthermore, punishment, protections, and standards of proof are very different between the two. For instance, criminal cases almost always call for a trial by jury, and the defendant is entitled to a criminal defense attorney.
- Offenses Against the State – This means that the offense affects everyone in society. Crimes are directly offenses against the state. For example, if someone murders another person, though it is an individual, the act itself impacts society as a whole. Civil cases are not considered this because it is tied between the individual parties involved with no social impact.
- Differences in Punishment – Many times, civil cases are only derived from monetary damages or legal orders to partake or refrain from something, called injunctions. Since crimes have greater punishments, these offenders might have to face jail time, monetary fines, or potentially the death penalty if severe enough, and the state offers this option.
- The Standard of Proof – Crimes need to have solid proof that the act was committed “beyond a reasonable doubt” with hard evidence. This is where an experienced Erie criminal lawyer can help counteract this “proof” to fight your case if you have been convicted. As for civil cases, the difference is that the liability is less blameworthy due to the punishments being much less severe.
- Jury Trials – Nearly every criminal case will allow for a trial by jury. Though civil cases typically allow this as well sometimes, most times, the verdict is decided by a judge without the need for a jury to attend.
- The Right to an Attorney – When someone commits a crime, they are automatically entitled to receive a criminal defense attorney that will help them build their case to achieve favorable results. For defendants in civil cases, they will not be offered an appointed attorney, but they still have the option to seek one out themselves to help their case and represent them.
- Defendant’s Rights and Protection – The last notable difference is how protections are afforded. Under criminal law, defendants have the protection that is under the Fourth Amendment. Civil cases generally do not access to those same protections.
Both Can Result in Civil and Criminal Liability
Even though criminal and civil cases are treated differently, an offense can still result in both criminal and civil liability. The OJ Simpson’s trial is a perfect example of this since the murder (criminal) resulted in a wrongful death trial (civil). Even though there was not enough evidence for the murder case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the jury still had enough proof that OJ Simpson wrongly caused the death of his wife by “preponderance of the evidence.”
Seeking Legal Help
The best thing you can do for yourself is to get an Erie criminal lawyer to help you with your case. They are professional and know what to look for that could result in less harsh punishments. Though a criminal lawyer should undoubtedly be one of your top priorities when it comes to building an excellent defensive case, you can still reach out to one for your civil case as well. Find a great local attorney who can provide guidance, represent you, and evaluate evidence in your favor.