Lose A Criminal Case but Win a Civil Trial

Pen and bulletYou’ve been wronged.  Your first instinct is to sue the person.  How do you know whether you should file a criminal case or a civil one? Many times, these days, even though you may lose in a criminal trial, there is the possibility that you could win in the civil trial.  How is that possible?

Both criminal and civil law are comprised of plaintiffs and defendants. A plaintiff is the person filing a suit against the defendant. The plaintiff is claiming the defendant has done something wrong and needs to pay for that activity. And the defendant is trying to prove he or she has done nothing wrong. In a criminal case, the prosecutor and police officers will have charges against the defendant for illegal activity. Civil law is not for the illegal act, but to prove the defendant has a responsibility for the result of the act.

If you want to bring someone to court for an illegal act, you can pursue the case in both criminal and civil court. Be prepared, however, that the verdict may not be the same for both cases. To better understand this situation you need to know the difference between a civil and a criminal case.

Criminal cases involve the government.  This means they are presenting as the plaintiff and you do not have to retain an attorney. Also, the prosecutor has total control in the case.  You have heard the cases stated many times “the state vs the defendant”. If the defendant loses, he or she may face jail time. As an injured party in the case, you may not receive compensation.  When monetary expenses are involved, plaintiffs usually file a civil case to receive compensatory damages.

A huge difference between a criminal case and a civil case is that in a criminal case you need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. Responsibility for the activity only needs to be proven in a civil case.  Also during a civil trial, the plaintiff has the capability to drop the case and settle out of court with the defendant.  A plaintiff may want to drop the charges in a criminal case, but the prosecution makes the final decision.

When proceeding to court on a criminal case or a civil case or both, it is always wise to consult an attorney. The attorney can guide you through the process for the best possible outcome.

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