The Difference Between Civil and Criminal Court
When you work with a personal injury lawyer St. Paul MN trusts, you may find yourself wondering about the procedure should your claim make it to court. There is a difference between civil and criminal court trials; a personal injury case will generally fall into the former category. Civil court and criminal court both have similarities in the way the trials are conducted, but have major differences regarding the consequences of the jurisdiction.
Civil court involves a dispute between a person or organization that believes that damages have been done in some form, and require . Civil disputes typically end in the guilty party (the defendant) paying for damages caused to the party suing (the plaintiff). A criminal court case involves a party that has committed a crime against the state, or against society as a whole. The party in question in a criminal case could face greater consequences such as substantial fines, jail time, or even a death sentence in extreme cases.
If you have questions about a claim or an accident to which you were party, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer St. Paul MN regularly chooses. At Johnston | Martineau, PLLP, we are committed to helping clients understand the complexities surrounding their cases. Call us today at (651) 504-1398 for a consultation.
Civil cases begin with a party that files a formal complaint against another party. The party suing is called the plaintiff, and the party in question is called the defendant. The parties can be singular people, or organizations.
In all of examples of civil lawsuits, there is a plaintiff claiming damages against a defendant. After the formal complaint is filed by the plaintiff, the defendant is served a court summons and is expected to respond in court. The defendant is not appointed an attorney; he or she must either pay to hire a personal injury lawyer St. Paul MN recommends, or choose to defend himself or herself in court. Judges suggest forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation, wherein a neutral third party attempts to reach a fair settlement between the two parties to avoid going through a trial. If a settlement is not reached by means of alternative dispute resolution, then the civil case is brought to trial.
Most civil cases start in state court, but the lawsuit may go to federal court if:
- both parties are from different states;
- federal statutes or constitutional rights are claimed to be violated; or
- the plaintiff demands monetary compensation exceeding $75,000.
Defendants in civil cases have the right to hire a personal injury lawyer in St. Paul MN, but may also choose to defend themselves. Both parties may also request a trial with jury, but if they both waive their right to a jury then the trial will be done in front of a judge. A civil case must be proven more likely than not, with the defendant being proven either innocent or guilty. In the case of a defendant’s guilt, the plaintiff is then awarded compensation for damages, decided by either the judge or jury.
Criminal cases involve a person or organization that has committed an offense against the state or against society. A prosecuting attorney represents the government in the case against the defendant. Defendants in criminal cases have the right to hire an attorney, but will be appointed one if they choose to waive the right to hire one. Defendants can also choose to defend themselves in criminal cases, but it is highly advised to seek an attorney.
Most criminal cases can be carried out in state courts when the defendant commits a misdemeanor, but when he or she has committed a felony, the case is moved to federal court.
Crimes that may result in federal trials include:
- Threatening high-ranking government officials
- The unlawful use of a firearm
- Murder, attempted murder
- Bank robbery
- Producing and distributing illegal substances
Criminal cases have more serious consequences than civil cases, where the defendant might only have to compensate the plaintiff for damages. Criminal defendants face charges such as jail time and serious fines.
Core Similarities and Differences
When working with a personal injury lawyer St. Paul MN clients know they can rely on, you may learn the following similarities and differences between these two types of cases:
- Defendants in civil cases must pay for an attorney, and must defend themselves if they choose to not hire an attorney. Defendants in criminal cases are given the right to hire an attorney, but are appointed one in the case they cannot afford one.
- Civil cases and criminal cases both normally begin in state court. They are only brought to federal court when dealing with federal law, or substantial amounts of money.
- Criminal cases are almost always done with a jury present, while the two parties in civil lawsuits can waive their right to a jury and have a “bench” case with only the judge present.
- The consequences of criminal cases are much more severe than those in civil cases; defendants can face jail time, astronomical fines, and even death. Since the consequences are much higher in criminal cases, the jury must decide “beyond reasonable doubt” of the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Criminal cases are much more difficult to prove than civil cases, as the jury must have an almost unanimous vote on the innocence or guilt of the defendant.
The consequences of civil suits usually end in the plaintiff deriving some form of compensation from the defendant. In this case, the defendant’s guilt (or innocence) must only be proven by “the preponderance of evidence”, or in other words, more likely than not, by the jury or judge.
Choose an Experienced St. Paul Personal Injury Lawyer
When you’re ready for a seasoned attorney to take on your case, look no further than Johnston | Martineau, PLLP. We have the knowledge and resources to help you receive the compensation you deserve, and to defend you in court if necessary. For your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer St. Paul MN prefers, call us at (651) 504-1398.