Did you know there was a difference between a civil and criminal case? For starters, when you are sued in civil court, you do not start the process off in handcuffs – so you have that going for you. And anyone can sue you in civil court, for things that you might never imagine would be brought in front of a judge. Any private party can start a civil case. That is kind of scary, isn’t it? It certainly makes you want to watch your p’s and q’s around most everyone!
Okay, well the person suing you has to have suffered some type of damage. It could be a personal injury, hurt feelings or damage to their personal property, just to name a few. Now that does not mean that if you call your neighbor a jerk that he can slap you with a lawsuit, but if you keep it up and start to make him feel defamation of his character, you just might. On the contrary, criminal law is brought to court by a prosecutor because of a law that you have broken.
There is no “beyond a reasonable doubt” in civil court. What does this mean for you? It means you better watch your behind because even the slightest bit of proof can make you liable for the damages. There is no jury; just the attorneys and the judge. Yes, there are witnesses and they can bear the proof that the plaintiff needs to find you liable for the damages. You do not need to try to convince 12 members of any type of board that you are innocent – it is up to the attorneys and the judge to determine the outcome of the case.
Perhaps the largest difference between civil and criminal cases is the outcome of the case. Should you lose, you are not going to end up in jail. Phew, I know. But, you are going to have to pay financially. Depending on the reason you are being sued, it could be some pretty hefty damages. So if you have been involved in a car accident, someone fell on your property, or you had some other type of intentional act against someone that caused them harm, you better watch out because you might be slapped with a civil case that could end up costing you an arm and a leg.