Civil and Criminal Case Differences
The American legal system is comprised of two very different types of cases, civil and criminal. Crimes are generally offenses against the state, and are accordingly prosecuted by the state. Civil cases on the other hand, are typically disputes between individuals regarding the legal duties and responsibilities they owe one another.
Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It regulates social conduct and proscribes threatening, harming, or otherwise endangering the health, safety, and moral welfare of people. It includes the punishment of people who violate these laws. Criminal law differs from civil law, whose emphasis is more on dispute resolution and victim compensation than on punishment.
Criminal law involves prosecution by the government of a person for an act that has been classified as a crime. Civil cases involve individuals and organizations seeking to resolve legal disputes. In a criminal case, the state, through a prosecutor, initiates the suit, while in a civil case the victim brings the suit. Persons convicted of a crime may be incarcerated, fined, or both. However, persons found liable in a civil case may only have to give up property or pay money, but are not incarcerated.
In criminal cases, victims do not decide whether or not the case is prosecuted in court. This decision is up to the prosecutor. The victim may be asked to serve as a witness to provide information. There is a high standard of proof in criminal casesand the defendant is entitled to a jury and to have a lawyer provided by the government if one cannot be afforded. There are numerous protections in criminal cases that are designed to ensure that the accused is fairly represented in court.
In civil cases, people are tried for committing wrongs against each other, such as failing to exercise due care in business transactions or depriving people of something to which they are entitled by right. These wrongs do not necessarily harm society as a whole. The standard of proof is lower in civil cases and the accused is not entitled to a lawyer or to a jury. The outcome of a civil case also differs from a criminal case.
Here are some of the key differences between a criminal case and a civil case:
- Crimes are considered offenses against the state, or society as a whole. That means that even though one person might murder another person, 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.
- Criminal offenses and civil offenses are generally different in terms of their punishment. Criminal cases will have jail time as a potential punishment, whereas civil cases generally only result in monetary damages or orders to do or not do something. Note that a criminal case may involve both jail time and monetary punishments in the form of fines.
- The standard of proof is also very different in a criminal case versus a civil case. 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 he or she can’t afford one, the state must provide an attorney. A defendant in a civil case is not given an attorney and must pay for one, or else defend him or herself.
- The protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable (such as the protection against illegal searches and seizures under the 4th Amendment). Many of these well known protections are not available to a defendant in a civil case.
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. Source
It is possible for someone to be tried for an action in a criminal case and also in a civil case. A classic example is a murder. The murder is regarded as a crime against society, so it is prosecuted as a criminal case. However, it is also harms the family of the victim, which may take the accused to court to sue for damages. The example is OJ Simpson case.
Since 1992, the likelihood of an arrest leading to a conviction has generally risen. Although some defendants think that they can “beat the system” on their own, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is the best way to prevent becoming another statistic.
West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Law Firm
The Law Firm of Andrew D. Stine is located in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. The firm’s criminal defense team includes:
- Criminal defense lawyer Andrew Stine
- Eric Centeno, a paralegal fluent in Spanish
- Dan Delois, an investigator with more than 25 years of experience
This team has met and interviewed countless defendants in federal, state and county jails, medical hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, juvenile facilities, and at numerous crime scenes throughout Florida and other states. When summoned, the team stands ready to represent clients who are in the process of having search warrants served on their homes, barns, out-buildings and even grow houses. The firm offers assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the firm’s emergency phone number: (561) 832-1170.
Many attorneys choose not to get involved in a criminal case until the defendant has been formally charged with a crime. Mr. Stine’s philosophy is the opposite. His experience has proven that there is no substitute for early intervention, which gives his clients a head-start on the prosecution. This gives the lawyer more time to:
- Conduct investigations
- Interview witnesses
- Research all legal options
The Office of the State Attorney in each Florida Judicial District employs “charging lawyers” whom determine the appropriate crime to charge. Lawyer Andrew Stine believes that it is imperative for the charging attorney to know who you really are and to show that you are much more than what the law enforcement agent or victim makes you out to be. That philosophy, along with Mr. Stine’s high level of trial preparation and creative defense strategies, has established an unprecedented track record of success for his clients.
Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at (561) 832-1170. Se habla español.