- Differences Between Civil and Criminal Law
- January 19, 2018 | Author: Herbert Louthian
- Law Firm: Louthian Law Firm, P.A. - Columbia Office
What are the main differences between civil and criminal law?
Civil and criminal law differ largely based upon the two parties involved in the case. In criminal cases, the dispute is between the state or federal government and a particular party. This means that the party broke some law that had been created by the government. Civil law, on the other hand, looks at disputes between two different entities. For example, a person who commits a crime, such as theft, will be tried in a criminal court. On the other hand, if someone fails to live up to the terms outlined in a contract, they did not break any state laws. They did, however, neglect their duties as outlined in the contract and therefore might legally owe the other party according to civil law. This case would be brought before a civil court.
How do civil and criminal cases differ in the way the cases are handled?
In both civil and criminal cases, the parties must be able to show proof that demonstrates their claims, but the level of evidence does differ between them. In criminal cases, someone found guilty will likely face prison or probation. In these cases, the prosecutors must be able to prove their cases ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’
On the other hand, civil cases often result in punishments related to financial penalties or particular orders to modify behavior. These cases also often result in outside settlements in which the defendant will pay a certain amount of money, but refuses to admit any kind of wrongdoing. Generally, greater flexibility exists in civil cases pertaining to how the cases are resolved. In personal injury, between 95 and 96 percent of the cases are settled before the trial begins. In the civil cases that do make it to trial, the level of proof required to win a case is generally lower than in criminal cases. Here, the burden requires a ‘preponderance of evidence,’ which can mean that the evidence points to the case set forth by the plaintiff, but there might still be some room for reasonable doubt.
The differences in the burden of evidence can be seen easily in the famous O.J. Simpson case. Criminally, the charges against him were dropped because the prosecutor was unable to prove the case ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.. On the other hand, the victim’s family successfully won a civil lawsuit against Simpson because the ‘preponderance of evidence’ was in their favor.
What should people do when faced with a personal injury case?
Like the O.J. Simpson case, there are instances where civil and criminal law might overlap, such as personal injury. States and the federal government have laws that help to outline the standards that people, such as businesses owners and employers, must meet to ensure the safety of patrons and employees. In a personal injury case, someone who failed to meet these legal obligations might be held criminally responsible if someone gets hurt. It may also be possible to sue them civilly, asking the court to hold them responsible for things such as medical bills, time off of work, hardship, or other costs that may have been incurred as a result of the injury.
What should people do if they have a personal injury case?People who have been injured because of the actions or negligence of another should always begin by seeking experienced, expert legal help. By discussing the case with professionals, they will be able to better determine if they have a civil case, a criminal case, or both, and how to gather the evidence needed about the incident. Reaching out to a legal team as soon as possible after the incident can help ensure that the case is handled while the injury remains fresh in the minds of everyone involved.