Many individuals who are unfamiliar with the law ask the difference between criminal prosecution and civil litigation. The confusion is often exacerbated when we hear that a former criminal defendant who’s beat their charges now faces civil litigation. One famous example of this would be the murder trial of Orenthal James Simpson (O.J. Simpson) and the subsequent civil murder case brought by the Goldman family. But not every criminal case leads to a civil trial or vice versa. The two are discrete areas of the law that rarely overlap. We shall explore some of the differences.
Criminal Defendant vs. Civil Defendant
In a criminal case, the subject who is being tried is referred to as the defendant. The state assigns a prosecutor to try the case. With a civil case, there is also a defendant. The person bringing the suit against the defendant is called a plaintiff. With criminal cases, the state is always the prosecution. With civil cases, however, the state may be the plaintiff, the defendant, or not party to either side.
The Burden of Proof
In a criminal case, the burden of proof is entirely on the prosecution. The attorney for the defendant is only required to create a reasonable doubt as to their client’s guilt. That’s not to say that any unlikely defense will work, but the prosecution has a much tougher job. In civil cases, the burden of proof is lower. The plaintiff’s attorney must show a preponderance of evidence that their case has merit. The defense can also win by demonstrating a preponderance of evidence to the contrary.
Statutory Law vs. Common Law
Crimes are established in the criminal code. If you were to look up FSS 784.03, you can read the elements of the crimes of battery and learn what makes a battery a misdemeanor or felony. Most crimes are established this way at either a local, state, or federal level. There are also civil codes that are signed into law by the state legislature, but much of what is decided in court is built on prior rulings. This case law shapes the way that current and future decisions are determined.
When You Need a Lawyer
Not every lawyer is a litigator, but every litigator is a lawyer. If you’ve been arrested for a crime, you need an attorney who specializes in criminal defense — usually, as soon as you’re able to get ahold of one. Criminal defense lawyers often practice a wide range of charges, but some specialize in things like DUIs, traffic, property crimes, person crimes, internet crimes, et cetera.
Civil attorneys, on the other hand, often focus on one specific area of the law, like personal injury, probate, real estate, construction, et cetera. Some attorneys represent both plaintiffs and defendants in civil suits, but many only work one side of the law.
Whether you require a criminal defense lawyer or a civil attorney, it’s vital that you choose one with extensive experience in whichever field is applicable. “Knowing a lawyer” can be handy if you have a few general questions on a topic, but if you need specialized advice, contact an attorney with the knowledge and training to handle your case.
In Orlando, Parikh Law is ready to defend you in criminal court. Contact Lawyer Parikh to begin your defense now.