Differences between Criminal and Civil Litigation Cases

Both criminal and civil disputes are deemed legal cases in the court of law and generally follow a relatively similar trial process; however, there are some very distinct differences between criminal cases versus civil litigation. In both criminal and civil cases, individuals or parties have come to the conclusion that an existing disagreement cannot be resolved amongst themselves, mediators, or arbitrators and that legal intervention is now necessary. Individuals, families, or businesses involved in any dispute will greatly benefit from deciphering the differences between the two, through reading this article, and can pursue their legal actions in the correct court of law.

Criminal Cases

A criminal case, which is handled by local, state, or federal courts, involves an acting representative of the government, generally a prosecutor, district, attorney, or grand jury, pressing charges against individuals or entities suspected of committing crimes. Crimes, and hence criminal cases, can be defined as those actions or disputes where a violation of public law occurs. For criminal cases, the alleged crimes may have also afflicted victims in a manner that also warrants civil suits being filed, which will allow victims to collect damages for their injuries and losses. For a comprehensive list of related crimes and other information regarding criminal cases and criminal defense articles, visit the resource section under the criminal defense resource tab.

Civil Cases

Civil cases are initiated when a wronged party, the plaintiff, files a complaint with the court of appropriate jurisdiction. The delivery of this complaint against named wrongdoers, known as defendants, is the action known as filing a lawsuit or bringing suit. While civil cases may involve criminal actions, these trials are completely separate from the proceedings of a criminal trial. Additionally, civil cases cover the gamut of disputes, disagreements, and grievances a plaintiff feels cannot be resolved sufficiently with defendants without court intervention.

Within the legal system, various types of civil cases may include:

  • Divorce
  • Child support
  • Child Custody
  • Alimony
  • Contractual disputes
  • Personal injury tort claims
  • Product liability
  • Class action suits
  • Wrongful death
  • Medical malpractice
  • Intellectual property disputes
  • Libel, slander, and defamation of character
  • Estate planning disputes
  • Property and zoning disputes

In essence, any disagreement that is not in violation of criminal laws in a given jurisdiction is an eligible civil case, as well as the damages stemming from some criminal cases.

In all civil cases, plaintiffs will be seeking remedy from a defendant or defendants. Remedy will often come in the form of a court mandated judgment that attempts to rectify, through judicial ruling, the outcome of a dispute. Additionally, remedy can be achieved in civil cases through settlement, which may be provoked in light of the costs and potential losses stemming from an impending civil trial. Remedies sought by plaintiffs in a civil case may take a number of forms including:

  • Settlement
  • Damages
  • Injunction
  • Declaratory judgment
The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need legal assistance with a criminal or civil litigation issue, please consult with a Lawyer near you to discuss the details of your case.