Getting Sound Advice

Getting Sound Advice

Key Differences Between Criminal And Civil Cases

Hailey Ruiz

How do you know if you have committed a crime or a tort? If charged with a crime, how will the court proceedings be different than they are in civil cases? What legal aid are you entitled to in a criminal case versus a civil case? There are key differences between criminal and civil cases. When you are a faced with court proceedings, you need to understand what sort of case you are faced with, so you can prepare accordingly.

A Legal Definition of Crime

When your actions only injure one person, you are guilty of a civil offense. On the other hand, if your actions injure the state or society as a whole, you have committed a crime. Murder is considered a crime even though your actions only affect one person because removing a person from society can injure society. Other crimes like robbery or fraud depend on how extensive the offense was. 

Who Brings the Case?

In a civil case, the injured party or representatives of the party bring the case to court. Legally those pushing the case are known as plaintiffs. In the case of a criminal case, an elected prosecuting attorney brings the case and the injured party may play a role only as a witness. 

Burden of Proof

In a criminal case, the prosecuting attorney must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt. This means that there should be no lingering questions about guilt. On the other hand, in a civil case, the plaintiff only needs to prove the defendant's guilt with a preponderance of evidence. This means that more evidence suggests guilt..


You cannot receive jail time for a civil case. On the other hand, you may be ordered to pay fines, cease an action, or begin an action. For example, a court might issue a restraining order that forbids you from making contact with a person, or the court might order you to pay alimony or childcare. In a criminal case, you may be faced with fines, jail time, or even the death penalty. 

Legal Representation

In a civil case, you do not have to have a lawyer, but you may hire one. Furthermore, you may only make your case to a judge, although juries are an option in some cases. In a criminal case, you are required to have a lawyer and are entitled to trial by jury. 

Criminal cases are considered more severe than civil cases, and because the consequences are more severe, the burden of proof is higher, and you are legally required to have an attorney. When you are faced with a criminal trial, you should vet criminal defense attorneys to make sure you find one who has positive experience with the type of crime you are faced with. This will ensure that you get the best legal representation. 


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About Me
Getting Sound Advice

When I was younger, I had a hard time following the rules. I got in with a bad group of friends, and I found myself in juvenile detention more than a few times. When I was sixteen, a teacher sat me down and explained where my life was leading. That teacher was the first person that believed in me, and I decided not to let him down. That day, I decided to change my life, and I did. Because of his sound advice, I was able to finish high school, get into a great college, and become a criminal attorney. I understand the uphill battle that troubled youth face, and I want to use this website to teach other people what they need to do to turn things around.