What’s the difference between a civil and criminal court case?

| Apr 19, 2021 | Criminal Law

The judicial system makes a distinction between a criminal offense and a civil offense. The nature of your dispute or pursuit for justice will determine whether you have a civil or criminal court case. In Georgia, civil court cases don’t seek to punish the defendant; they aim to obtain amends for a wrongdoing.

Taking someone to court for stealing your property is an example of a case that goes to civil court. Personal injury issues are often subject to civil litigation as well.

Guilty vs. liable

The court will find defendants in civil cases either liable or not liable for losses. It is during criminal court cases that the court gives a guilty or not guilty verdict.

Crimes are offenses against the state

The judicial system sees crimes as offenses against the state or society. Issues like murder, rape, arson, robbery and assault are criminal offenses. A prosecutor is responsible for filing the court case instead of the victim. In a civil court case, the victim would file the case.

Standard of proof

There are different standards of proof in the judicial system. Because of the severity of criminal acts, criminal court cases require a higher standard of proof than civil court cases. Prosecutors must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. In civil lawsuits, plaintiffs typically must prove that the defendant is liable by the preponderance of the evidence.

The right to an attorney

Defendants in both civil and criminal court cases can hire a lawyer to represent themselves. However, the state isn’t responsible for assigning an attorney to a defendant in a civil case. Defendants in civil cases must represent themselves if they’re unable to find a lawyer.

Understanding the difference between a criminal and a civil court case will help you have reasonable expectations when you seek justice. If you’re still confused what type of case you have on your hands, you may want to consult with a lawyer.