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The Differences Between Criminal and Civil Litigation

Content Director

When O.J. Simpson was acquited of murder charges in 1995, many people around the world believed that he was guilty of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman. Although Mr. Simpson went free, he was ultimately found responsible for their deaths in civil court and ordered to pay the victim’s survivors’ money.

A criminal trial takes place when a person has been accused of breaking the law. A Civil trial may take place for any number of conflicts between people. Two individuals may have a disagreement about who owns a piece of property or a business, a divorcing couple may disagree on who gets custody of the kids or a group of employees may sue their employer for unpaid wages. 

If you are charged with a crime and you cannot afford an attorney, an attorney from the public defender’s office will be assigned to represent you in your case or you can represent yourself. It is always advisable to hire a professional criminal defense attorney in this case. 

If you want to sue someone in civil court, you will want to find an attorney who specializes in your type of case. However, you will be on your own as far as paying for an attorney.

If you want to sue your employer for lost wages, you will want to hire a labor lawyer, but if you are injured on the job you may want to hire a personal injury attorney. 

If you own a company and one or more of your employees sues you, you will want to hire a labor lawyer, but one that specializes in representing corporations.

If a person is charged with a crime, the prosecution will build a case against them. The case is not brought to court by the victim of a crime, but rather the government.  Depending on the type of crime, the prosecuting attorney may work for the state or federal government.

In some criminal cases, there may not be a quantifiable victim. A person charged with drug possession, for example, is considered to have offended social mores or standards. Accidents are often caused by people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Hence, they are prosecuted for consequences that their actions might have caused, rather than consequences that actually happened.

In a civil case, the person who files the lawsuit is known as the plaintiff. Their attorney will build a case against the person they are suing and present that case in court. 

Burden of Proof

In a criminal trial, a person who is accused of a crime must be proven guilty, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, the plaintiff must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. 

Civil Cases That Result From Criminal Cases

Sometimes an incident may cause both a criminal and a civil trial. In the case of O.J. Simpson, the murder of the famed running back’s ex-wife was the catalyst for both a criminal and civil suit. When a person is murdered, it is not uncommon for their family to sue the person who killed them for wrongful death. If a family or individual suffered financially or emotionally as the result of a crime, they may sue the person they feel is responsible.

If you have been accused of a crime, you will want to find a criminal attorney with many years of experience in California law. They should be well versed in the law you are accused of breaking. visit bajajdefense.com to learn more.

Authoritative Sources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/burden_of_proof

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