When you’re facing a legal issue, it’s important to know what kind of case you have on your hands. Is it a civil case or a criminal case? Many people get civil law and criminal law confused, or even use the terms interchangeably, but they are quite different!
The essential difference between civil and criminal law is that criminal law deals with crimes (i.e. illegal offenses ranging from petty theft to homicide) while civil law deals with disputes between people, companies, or both. The following are the biggest differences between civil and criminal law.
Civil cases are filed by a private party while criminal cases are filed by the state or federal government.
If you’ve watched a true crime show or even just the news, you’ve probably heard the phrase “beyond reasonable doubt.” The government must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt to get a conviction in a criminal case. Meanwhile, in civil cases the plaintiff has to provide “preponderance of evidence.”
If things go poorly for you in a civil case, you will be found “liable,” whereas if things go poorly for you in a criminal case, you will be found “guilty.”
In a civil case, the victim is usually awarded compensation for injuries and damage if it can be proved that the other party was at fault (or in other words is “liable”). In criminal cases, guilty defendants may be punished with fines or incarceration, depending on the severity of the crime.
If either party in a civil case disagrees with the outcome, they can make an appeal. In a criminal case only the defendant can file an appeal. If the defendant is proven innocent, they cannot be tried for the same offense again.
Whether your legal matter falls in the civil category or the criminal, it is essential to have a lawyer by your side to help you navigate the situation. The Knoxville Bar Association’s LRIS can help you find the right lawyer to suit your circumstances. Find out more by calling us at (865) 522-7501.
If you’re looking for a lawyer and just don’t know where to start, the Knoxville Bar Association’s LRIS is a great place to begin. We match you with a lawyer that suits your needs. Our trusted attorneys provide you with a free consultation so that you can decide if it’s the right fit. Want to learn more? Call us at (865) 522-7501 or visit knoxbar.org/lawyerfinder.
The materials contained in this blog are intended to, and do, provide only a broad overview of various legal topics. The general information contained in this material is not designed nor intended to be a substitute for legal advice on a specific legal issue or question. In addition, the information provided in this material is only general advice and may not be applicable to apparent similar individual problems, since only slight changes in facts change the applicable advice. If you have a legal problem or question, please consult an attorney.
Any publication, distribution, or other use of these materials without the express written consent of the Knoxville Bar Association is prohibited.
Copyright 2021, Knoxville Bar Association, All Rights Reserved