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Miami Bankruptcy & Criminal Attorney / Blog / General / What’s The Difference Between A Civil And A Criminal Case?

What’s The Difference Between A Civil And A Criminal Case?


We hear about cases going to court all the time. The news is flush with stories about jurors deliberating the fates of defendants. But many people don’t really understand the difference between civil and criminal cases.  Those differences are significant, and worth understanding.

Legal Penalties

Civil cases involve defendants who are accused of wrongdoing that results in harm to plaintiffs.  An example might be when a surgeon accidentally leaves a sponge in a patient following surgery.  The patient develops an infection and suffers further complications, and ultimately chooses to file a civil lawsuit against the doctor and/or the hospital seeking damages—financial compensation—to address medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and so forth.

On the other hand, a criminal case is brought by the government to address legal wrongdoing. For instance, if an alleged bank robber is captured and charged with robbery, a jury will consider whether the defendant is guilty of the crime.  In the event of a guilty verdict, the consequence will be prison time, probation, and/or fines.

To be sure, some events may result in both civil and criminal trials. In such a case, the accused faced criminal charges and went on trial for murder—for which he was acquitted. Later, the Brown and Goldman families took him to civil court on charges of wrongful death. In that case, the jury found him guilty, and he was ordered to pay millions to the families.

Burden of Proof

Why would a defendant like Simpson be found innocent in a criminal trial, but guilty in a civil trial, when both trials are dealing with the same event? The answer is simple: the burden of proof is much more strenuous in criminal trials than in civil cases.  The burden of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Not only must a prosecutor establish that the crime occurred; criminal intent must also be proven. That’s because one of our most cherished rights—freedom—is on the line in a criminal trial.  Compare that to the burden in a civil trial, when the plaintiff must simply demonstrate that the defendant is more likely culpable than not. Here the burden of proof is significantly easier to achieve because a guilty verdict will simply part the defendant and his money.

A Vigorous Criminal Defense

If you are facing criminal charges, you are looking at the possibility of losing your freedom, possibly for a very long time.  It means your life will be forever changed— before, during, and after sentencing.  At the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos, our Miami criminal defense attorneys know the stakes are high, and will provide a robust and tenacious defense.  Contact our office for a confidential consultation today.



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