How does a Criminal Case Differ from a Civil Case?

All legal matters are divided into two main categories aka Civil cases and criminal cases. In the US, there are different civil and criminal courts.

A case is categorized as a criminal case if a law is broken or a criminal offense is committed. All other types of cases come under the category of civil cases. Most civil cases are concerned with some kind of recovery. In civil cases when a “harm” is done because of recklessness or negligence by the defendant in the case.

An act may qualify as a criminal offense even if no physical harm is done to anyone if his/her behavior was against the law. Some examples of criminal offenses where there is no physical harm caused are drug use, trespassing, gambling, public drunkenness, etc.

Criminal cases are represented by criminal lawyers and some civil lawyers represent plaintiffs or defendants in civil trials.

In the US, some states even have different judges who preside in civil and criminal cases.

Let us dig a little deeper into the differences between a civil and criminal case:

Criminal cases are usually filed by the government with a prosecuting attorney. A civil case is usually filed by an individual or a corporation against another individual or corporation.

The American Penal Code or Criminal Law provides for punishments like imprisonment, fine, or death in an endeavor to protect the peace and safety of its citizens. These punishments apply to offenders who break the law and are proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the other hand, Civil Code covers laws that enable individuals to seek prosecution or defend their rights or seek monetary or injunctive relief.

One difference between the trial of a civil case and a criminal case is that in a civil case any individual including the opponent can be called to testify. However, in a criminal case, the prosecution cannot call the accused to testify as per the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The prosecution, however, has a right to cross examinee the defendant if he voluntarily takes the stand.

In case of a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff needs to prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence. However, in a criminal case, the defendant is required to be proved guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.

A civil trial does not require a unanimous verdict while a criminal case requires a unanimous verdict by the jury.

The outcome of both criminal and civil cases is different. In civil cases, usually, the case is settled by the guilty party providing financial compensation for the crime committed. On the other hand, the nature of punishment in a criminal case is quite severe. It could be imprisonment, death, etc. depending on the nature of the crime.

In case you are charged with a criminal offense, you have three options before you:

  • You can be represented by a private criminal lawyer.
  • The state can appoint an attorney to represent you.
  • You can represent yourself.

However, it is recommended that you hire a professional lawyer to represent you in a criminal case because if your case is not represented well, it could have severe repercussions.

Autrey Law Firm has the best criminal lawyers to represent you for any type of criminal case.