How Are Civil Cases Different from Criminal Cases?

wooden gavel in courtroom

What is a Civil Case?

Civil cases handle legal disputes between two parties, typically involving money or injury. The main purpose of a civil case is for the plaintiff to obtain compensation from the defendant to make up for wrongdoing.

For example, someone may file a civil lawsuit against a driver who hit them and caused them to suffer injuries.

Differences Between Civil and Criminal Cases

These two types of cases have many differences.

First, who is involved? A criminal case can involve a judge, jury, prosecutor(s), and defendant. In a civil case, there is a judge, plaintiff, and defendant.

Another difference is who can start the case. Technically, anyone over 18 years old can file a civil lawsuit. However, not anyone can file criminal charges. Typically, the prosecutor will decide whether or not to file charges after an arrest is made.

The burden of proof is also different for these two types of cases. In a civil case, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff. This must mean that they must collect evidence to prove that they incurred damages due to the defendant's actions. They must prove this by a ‘preponderance of evidence.’ This means that there is a greater than 50% chance that the plaintiff’s claims are true. This is different than a criminal case, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the defendant must be guilty as there are no other reasonable explanations based on the evidence.

Another difference is each defendant’s right to an attorney. When accused of a crime, each defendant has the right to a public attorney or obtain private counsel. For civil matters, though, defendants do not have the right to an attorney. They must hire a private attorney if they wish to have legal counsel.

Lastly, the penalties for both types of cases are different. Criminal penalties can include jail time, fines, probation, license suspension, etc. In civil cases, the penalty is usually only a monetary payment the defendant must make to the plaintiff.

Georgia Civil and Criminal Legal Counsel

Whether you are involved in a civil or criminal matter, our team at Miles Hansford, LLC can help. Contact us today to share more about the details of your case so we can guide you in the best direction.