The legal system in the United States is somewhat complicated and can be challenging for someone to understand. For those that are new to the legal system and are trying to understand it, there are two basic types of law that exist. These are criminal law and civil law. There are several differences between the two types of law that are important to understand.
1. Type of Dispute
One of the main differences between a criminal and civil case is the source of the dispute. A criminal case is technically a dispute between an individual and the local state. On the other hand, a civil case is typically a dispute between two individuals, corporations, or other entities.
2. Issues Covered
Generally speaking, criminal cases will handle much more serious issues than civil cases. Criminal cases will handle a wide variety of very serious topics including violent crimes, fraud, and other issues that are considered crimes against society.
Civil cases, on the other hand, can vary in scope considerably. These can include simple disputes between neighbors, medical and hospital malpractices, and range all the way up to major class action lawsuits against big corporations or even the US government. Medical malpractice cases,
3. Potential Punishment
The type of punishment you can receive is also a big difference between civil and criminal law. In a civil lawsuit, your punishment will always be limited to something monetary. When it comes to a criminal case, your punishment can be much more severe. Not only could you be hit with a monetary charge, but you could also be charged with imprisonment and other serious penalties.
4. Statute of Limitations
Another difference between the two types of law is the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a fixed period of time in which you have the ability to file a lawsuit or a state has the right to file criminal charges.
If this amount of time has passed, you can no longer be charged with these crimes or file a lawsuit. There are typically shorter statutes of limitations in civil cases than in criminal. In fact, some types of crimes have no statute of limitations at all.
5. Burden of Proof
Due to the serious nature of a criminal lawsuit, the burden of proof is far more one-sided towards the defendant. The fundamental rights that someone has during a criminal case state that they are innocent until proven guilty.
This helps to ensure that the defendant receives a fair and decent trial. This is much different than in a civil case. During a civil case, the burden of proof is not as one-sided and both parties are required to prove their cases in a balanced trial.
6. Payment of Costs
Another factor that makes civil and criminal cases different is who covers the costs of the bills. During a criminal case, the defendant will be held responsible for their costs that come with a defense of their rights.
During a civil case, a defendant will actually be able to receive reimbursement from the plaintiff if the defendant ends up winning the case.