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Criminal vs. Civil Cases

Court cases can take on a variety of forms depending on subject matter, what you’re trying to achieve in the case, and the argument you are presenting. However, the biggest divider of cases is whether the case is a civil case or a criminal case. The difference between the two lies in who brings up the case. In short, criminal cases deal with issues taken up by the government (a law is broken) against an entity, whereas civil cases deal with issues taken up by one entity (an individual or business, not the government) against another entity.

In criminal cases, the subject matter is related to a crime that affected society, therefore, the punishments are more severe. Because the punishments are more severe and criminal cases look bad on your record, the evidence needed to prove the case must be more clear-cut, typically needing a jury to decide the outcome (as opposed to just a judge in a benched trial). The evidence must be enough to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant most likely committed a crime and that the more severe punishment is justified. The more severe punishments often take the form of fees, jail time, and, in extreme cases, the death penalty. Furthermore, because criminal cases are enacted by the state, who are held more closely to the constitution and its ideals of due process, there are more rights given to the defendant as a protection against government. This protects defendants, who may or may not be innocent, from those extreme punishments only the government can hand out. Some examples of criminal cases involve murder, drug dealing, robbery, DUI infractions, and vandalism. As you can probably see, all these crimes break a law and hurt society in some way, so the government may take up a criminal case to rectify the injustice.

Civil cases deal with subject matter related to infractions committed between members of a society. Entities (business or individual) may resort to civil cases in order to resolve disputes or wrongdoings between each other. There are, therefore, less severe punishments, typically in the form of a monetary award. Furthermore, since civil cases only resolve disputes between society members and not the government, the defendant is not given as many rights (as opposed to criminal cases) because the government is not there to need those rights as a protection. Civil cases also require less evidence than criminal cases – where only “preponderance of evidence” is required – to prove a case. A judge is typically the one making the verdict and not a jury. Some examples of civil law cases involve divorce, contract disputes, personal injury issues like car accidents and medical malpractice, etc.. As you can probably see, all these cases involve disputes between non-government parties and so civil cases can be used to rectify the issues through monetary awards.

Meldon Law deals with both criminal and civil cases, dealing with issues all the way from DUI infractions to personal injury car accidents. If you’re worried about a possible criminal or civil court case you may be involved in, give us a call at (352) 614-3705.

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