What are the differences between civil and criminal cases?

There are important distinctions to be made between civil and criminal legal matters.

You are likely familiar with the basic concept of criminal law. As the name suggests, criminal law primarily concerns actions that are regarded as criminal in nature and generally harmful to society. These include many of the crimes we may commonly think of – murder, robbery, rape.

On the other hand, civil law primarily concerns issues that impact a specific individual, party, or organization – rather than causing harm to society as a whole. Some common examples of these types of offensives might include disputes over whether a characterization in the media should be regarded as slander. Other common civil law issues might include disputes between business partners or businesses and clients – think of issues such as breaching a contract or rendering property damage.

An easy distinction to keep in mind is that civil cases often revolve around matters of negligent behavior, as opposed to the purposely malicious intent that falls into criminal legal matters (think of the distinction between murder and manslaughter through a vehicular accident).

The distinctions between criminal and civil law are important to keep in mind because they drive the types of punishments that might be rendered to those found guilty, as well as what standard of proof needs to be met for someone to be charged with a crime.

Criminal law and civil law differ with respect to how cases are initiated (who may bring charges or file suit), how cases are decided (by a judge or a jury), what kinds of punishment or penalty may be imposed, what standards of proof must be met, and what legal protections may be available to the defendant.

There are also substantive differences in how cases are initiated and resolved; criminal cases are initiated by government authorities and generally decided by a jury, as opposed to civil cases which can be initiated by private individuals and generally see the decision coming down to a ruling from a judge, with punishment generally in the form of fees as opposed to prison time.

If you are facing a legal issue, whether involving matters of criminal or civil law, visit the experienced team at Tassone, Dreicer & Hill. Our team has represented clients on both the federal and state court level throughout Northeast Florida for more than half a century and offer a wealth of insights that can demystify the often overwhelming world of the law.

You can contact us for a free consultation to assess your options for how we can provide the strong possible defense and ensure that you are afforded fair and equal advocacy in the court of law.