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The Main Differences Between Civil and Criminal Law

Though many assume that criminal and civil court cases happen under the same legal standards, they actually operate under quite different rules and procedures. Understanding these differences is key, should you come into need of legal counsel.

The key difference is that civil law seeks to amend wrongs towards a person or organization through restitution or compensation. Criminal law, on the other hand, seeks punishment of a person for acts committed against state and society.

Put simply, civil law takes place between people/organizations. Criminal law happens between the government and a person (or persons). This, however, is just the beginning of their differences.

Civil Law

Civil cases typically handle private disputes between persons or organizations. Examples include seeking debt owed, injury, fraud, general lawsuits, divorce, and discrimination.

In a civil case, a person or entity (plaintiff) claims another person or entity failed to carry out something legally owed to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff succeeds, the court will ask for the defendant to fulfill duties not being fulfilled and/or may ask for compensation owed. Civil cases may be brought to federal court, claiming that constitutional rights or federal statutes were violated.

A civil case is filed by private party, whether it’s a person, group, or organization.

The verdict of civil laws depends on preponderance of evidence, essentially meaning that the plaintiff’s case must prove stronger than the defendant’s.

Criminal Law

Criminal cases involve actions that are harmful to society as a whole, such as robbery, assault, drunk driving, destruction of property, murder, etc.

In a criminal case, a person is charged with a formal accusation, called an indictment in more serious crimes. The government prosecutes the defendant in all criminal cases. With criminal cases, there might not be a specific victim, such as with drunk driving.

The sentence of a criminal case may result in fines, community service, and/or jail-time. The defendant in a criminal case is innocent until proven guilty. In order to be found guilty, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is responsible for the acts they’re accused of.

In other words, there is no logical explanation that can be given from the facts except that the defendant committed crime. This is the highest standard of proof, and therefore, requires stronger evidence than a civil case.

Can a Case be Both Civil and Criminal?

Because of their strong differences, civil cases and criminal cases are always handled separately. However, the same incident could result in both a criminal case and civil case. Though these cases involve the same defendant and series of events, they are not handled together in any way.

Make Sure You’re Protected

Whether you’re involved in a civil case or a criminal case, you need proper legal representation. The offices of Michael T. Edwards are capable of handling both. If you’re in need of a Springfield attorney, contact us today.

41 E. Main St., Enon,
Springfield, OH 45323

937-864-2645