What is the Difference Between Civil and Criminal Cases?

SQ Attorneys

The American legal system addresses the wrongdoings that people commit with two different types of cases: civil and criminal. Generally speaking, crimes are offenses against the state, even if the immediate harm is done to an individual. Accordingly, they are prosecuted by the state. On the other hand, civil cases typically involve disputes between parties regarding the legal duties and responsibilities they owe to one another. These cases are handled through civil lawsuits.

Although there is some overlap between civil and criminal cases, there are several ways in which you can tell the differences between a criminal case and a civil case. Here are some of the key differences between a criminal case and a civil case: 1) Crimes are considered offenses against the state, or society as a whole; 2) Criminal offenses and civil offenses are generally different in terms of the punishments they can bring; 3) The standard of proof is also very different in a criminal case versus a civil case; 4) Criminal cases almost always allow for a trial by jury; 5) A defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney; 6) The protections afforded to defendants under criminal law are considerable.

Even though one person might murder a particular person, the 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.

Civil cases generally only result in monetary damages or orders to do or not do something, known as injunctions. Note that a criminal case may involve both jail time and, in the form of fines, monetary punishments. In general, because criminal cases have greater consequences including the possibility of jail and even death, criminal cases have many more protections in place and are more difficult to prove.

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.”The term, “the preponderance of evidence,” refers to how it was more likely than not that something occurred in a certain way. The difference in these two standards points to how civil liability is considered less blameworthy and how the punishments are less severe. What the case may be, in a set of criminal proceedings, is that what is known as “the burden of proof” falls upon the prosecutor.

Under this burden, the defendant has no obligation to prove their innocence. At the same time under this burden, the standard of proof the prosecutor must meet is much higher than in civil cases. It’s much higher because the defendant’s freedom is at risk and also because the defendant is facing a more severe penalty. After all, criminal convictions, from felonies to misdemeanors, tend to carry heavier consequences for a defendant than civil penalties do in civil suits.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle DUI Attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle DUI Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 and/or (206) 441-0900.

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