The legal system in the United States is typically broken down into two different types of legal cases, civil offenses, and criminal offenses. It is key to understand the differences between them as they have separate consequences and are perceived differently by society. If you are interested in learning more about civil and criminal offenses, continue reading this article.
Civil Offenses Vs. Criminal Offenses
Firstly, it is important to understand what civil law and criminal law are. Civil law applies to disputes between members of a community (whether they are individuals or businesses) that do not amount to violations of the law. Criminal law addresses crimes and the punishments that accompany them. The consequences that go along with criminal convictions are typically much more severe than those for civil offenses.
Types Of Actions That Are Involved
Civil cases are brought by filing a lawsuit and include defamation, breach of contract, property damage, personal injury, and divorce disputes. Criminal cases result from a government entity filing charges against an individual; these include homicide, assault, DUI, theft, robbery, and possession and/or distribution of an illegal substance, as well as traffic violations.
The Kinds Of Punishments That Are Levied
A defendant in a civil case can be found liable or not liable. If found liable, the punishment is typically monetary, resulting in an order to pay compensatory or punitive damages. Generally, by being civilly liable, an individual does not face incarceration.
A defendant in a criminal case can be found guilty or not guilty. Being found guilty often results in a fine, community service, and/or court-ordered education. Convictions do not always result in a jail or prison sentence, but it is a possibility on more serious charges.
Standard Of Proof
To prove a civil offense occurred, the party bringing the lawsuit needs to meet one of two standards, depending on the type of case. The first one is Preponderance of the Evidence, meaning that it is more likely than not that a person is liable. The second one, Clear and Convincing Evidence, is a higher standard that requires the judge or jury to determine that it is highly probable that the allegations occurred.
Criminal offenses are held to a higher standard, which is Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. The prosecution must prove to the judge or jury that there is no other reasonable explanation that can come from the evidence presented at trial.
Do You Need Legal Representation?
Whether you have been charged with a civil or criminal offense, it is important to reach out to legal professionals to represent you should your case go to court. Even if your case is settled outside of the courtroom, you would likely benefit from legal assistance. I, Zachary C. Holbrook, am a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with extensive experience with cases in a variety of practice areas including criminal defense, family law, and estate planning. If you are in need of legal assistance, or representation, or would simply like a case review, feel free to reach out to my law office today.