Is Your Case Criminal or Civil?

Civil or Criminal LawHave you ever wondered how the difference between criminal or civil cases is determined? These are the differences:

Criminal Cases

A criminal case — whether or not something is a criminal action — is defined by state or federal statute. This means a law has been written that specifically makes an action illegal in our society. For example, designer drugs are so lucrative and popular when they are initially introduced because they are NOT illegal.

The legislatures must MAKE them illegal by statute before individuals can be prosecuted for making, distributing, or using these products. Criminal cases require that an individual be deemed guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for convictions.

If you are looking for defense from criminal charges, visit our Criminal Law Defense page.

Civil Actions

In simplest terms, a civil case is anything that isn’t a criminal case

In a civil lawsuit the Plaintiff sues the Defendant to get the Court to order the defendant to either perform some sort of action or to pay the plaintiff money for something the defendant did or did not do.  For example, if a neighbor damages your fence with their lawnmower and then refuses to repair the damage they caused, you might pursue this as a civil action to get the court to order your neighbor to pay for the repairs to the fence, or to repair the fence themselves.

Sometimes, civil actions can arise out of a criminal action. For example, in an assault case, the attacker may face both, criminal charges  for the crime of assault and a civil lawsuit in which they are required to pay for the medical bills, lost work time and/or emotional distress of the victim. Civil actions usually have a lower burden of proof (which is called “a preponderance of evidence”) for a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

Family law is also a civil matter. If you are looking for an attorney to help you in a divorce or other family law matter, visit our Family Law Page. If you have any questions about how to determine if your case is civil or criminal, call us: 859-236-8888. We can help you determine where you are now and what you need to do to move forward.

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