Civil Litigation vs. Criminal Litigation If somebody commits a crime or does wrong doing to another what category does it fit under? Is it civil case or a criminal case? Although there are many similarities between civil litigation procedures and criminal litigation procedures, several differences exist among them. The first difference among the two procedures is what even defines them. A civil case involves a wrong doing between two private parties in which the victim is suing for damages or is in suit for equity. Other remedies exist but those are the most common.
Examples include: divorce, estate distribution, and injury cases. Criminal cases involve the harming of an entire community and whose solution is a fine or imprisonment for the offender. Some examples include: assault, robbery, shoplifting, rape and murder. A representative for a civil case involves a person, business or government who feels they have been wronged and they are filing a complaint against another person, business or government to the court. The person filing the complaint is known as the complainant or plaintiff while the person being accused is referred to as the defendant.
In a criminal proceeding, it generally includes a representative of the government as a criminal crime is deemed to have affected the public or entire community. A prosecutor, attorney, grand jury for example would be pressing charges against the individual suspected of committing the crime. As opposed to civil cases referring to the person pressing charges as the plaintiff, criminal cases refer to that position as the prosecutor. For the two parties involved in a civil case, both must provide their own attorneys as one will not be appointed to them.
On the other hand, criminal cases will provide an attorney to a defendant if he or she cannot afford one. For civil cases, after the complaint is filed, the court will deliver it to the defendant in which the filing of a lawsuit has now begun. It is important to know that criminal cases may also result in a civil suit in which the victim wishes to receive damages for the injuries or losses that occurred. Instead of a complaint, the initiation of a criminal case involves the arrest of the suspect under probable cause.
They are either arrested while committing the crime or before as long as that officer has probable cause that the suspect was going to or was in the process of committing that crime. The suspect is then “booked” as he is photographed, fingerprinted and logged into the system. This is now when a complaint is filed. Usually after the complaint and consent of both parties to the court is reached, discovery now begins with a civil case. A criminal case has a few steps before that occurs. This includes the initial appearance within 24 to 48 hours after the arrest.
There will then be a preliminary hearing where the prosecution must prove there is adequate probable cause to continue. Then, there is the arraignment hearing in which the defendant is read the formal charge and is to plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. The accused will then either be set a date for sentencing under a guilty plea or discovery will now begin if plead not guilty. Trial proceedings would eventually be scheduled along with the selection of the jury. After all statements and examinations are conducted, the jury will then be told instructions and have time to deliberate.
Without motions or appeals the sentencing will soon occur. After the discoveries of a civil case, if the defense proves there are no facts that the parties are arguing in the case, then they are able to file a motion for summary judgment. The judge would now be allowed to decide the case based on the two initial filings and if this does not occur, trial will continue. This saves much time and money. Civil procedure is designed to be as efficient as possible with the prevention of long trials when able.
The most prevalent difference between the civil litigation process and the criminal litigation process is the burden of proof. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas in a civil case the plaintiff must prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence which is a much lower burden. A criminal case will only prevail if there is absolutely no question of the guilt of the suspect. With beyond a reasonable doubt, there is no other logical explanation that can be concluded other than the accused committed that crime.
A preponderance of evidence proves that the evidence is more convincing on one side than on the other party’s side which consists of much less explanation than with a criminal conviction. It is determined that although civil and criminal litigation procedures have many similarities throughout trial, there are several important differences that set the two apart. In order to have such a legal process that is efficient, these differences are crucial in determining how cases should be handled due to the certain circumstances.