LegalYou: What is the Difference Between Civil Cases and Criminal Cases?

It wouldn’t make sense for a defendant in a contract dispute to have the same kind of trial as say Jason.

That’s why the courts in this country split cases into two categories, civil and criminal. A civil case is when one person, the plaintiff, brings legal action against another person who has allegedly wronged them, the defendant, with the intent of collecting damages. Damages equals money.

A criminal case is where government prosecutes someone to prove them guilty of committing a crime, like a car thief.

The victim of this crime is often a witness in the government’s case against the accused as well as any eyewitnesses.

In a civil case, the court can judge that a defendant owes the plaintiff money or other property or must perform a service that was promised. Mostly though its money, reimbursement, compensation or punitive damages. However, a judge in a civil case cannot send a defendant to jail, barring a few exceptions usually regarding the intentional violation of court orders.

In a criminal case, either the prosecutor or a grand jury initiates the proceedings. Punishment for guilty defendants can range from fines, community service or educational classes, too much more serious consequences such as jail time.

And anyone, including the defendant, can be called as a witness in a civil case, whereas in a criminal case they cannot be forced to.

Also, criminal cases generally have a higher burden of proof than civil cases. This is mainly because a person’s freedom is at stake. Prosecutors have to work that much harder to show guilt. They must prove that the defendant is guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt.

A plaintiff in a civil case however, only needs to prove that they should win by a preponderance of the evidence.

Preponderance just means the greater amount or weight of the evidence when taking into account the believability of that evidence.

For more details on the differences between types of cases or anything having to do with court in any way, LegalYou is your go-to resource.