October 28, 2021

Civil Trials vs Criminal Trials: What’s the Difference?

Legal trials often fall under many categories according to dispute, including civil and criminal. Due to the popularity of crime shows, the vast majority of the population is more familiar with the latter—highly publicized cases that involve catching a criminal and giving them a sentence to serve in jail or prison. However, people are more likely to face civil trials than criminal trials.

If you find yourself facing litigation, it’s vital to understand the difference between civil and criminal trials. Being aware of the distinction will help you know what to expect and how to proceed with the case. It will also help you make the best decision according to the facts and circumstances. However, the two categories sometimes overlap.

Here is a quick guide on the difference between civil trials and criminal trials:

What Is a Civil Trial?

Civil trials are often disputes between individuals or organizations, and these are often not as well-publicized as criminal ones. The lawsuit begins when a plaintiff brings a case to court against a defendant because the defendant did not carry out a legal duty they owe to the plaintiff. 

Both parties (the plaintiff and the defendant) could be a person or an entity (such as a corporation or group), and the suits may be brought in both state and federal courts. In civil cases, the plaintiff will request the court to demand the defendant to carry out the legal duty they owe or pay for the damages they have caused. Other times, they may be asked to do both. 

Violations of federal statutes and constitutional rights can call for civil trials. For instance, an individual or group can sue a local police department for infringing on their rights to a peaceful assembly. 

What Is a Criminal Trial?

Criminal trials occur when a person gets charged in a formal accusation referred to as information (for misdemeanors) or an indictment (for serious crimes or felonies). These involve offensive acts against the city, county, state, or federal government.

Unlike civil cases, the victims do not have to be involved in a criminal trial. In fact, some of these lawsuits do not have a specific victim. For instance, the government can arrest and prosecute a person for driving under the influence, which is a serious offense that can harm other citizens.

If a person is guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, they will receive a sentence, which can come in many forms. They may pay a fine, become subject to supervision in the community, or reside in prison. 

Can Civil and Criminal Trials Overlap?

Civil and criminal trials sometimes overlap, and the defendant may face both cases at once. For instance, a person charged criminally with homicide can also be sued civilly for wrongful death.

Work with Experienced Criminal Lawyers in Jacksonville

Civil and criminal trials are two distinct fields that may confuse many people. The former deals with offenses against private parties, while the latter tackles violations against the state or federal government. Knowing their differences can help you understand how to proceed with your cases and seek the right lawyers for the job, so we hope this guide has helped you differentiate between the two.

If you’re looking for experienced criminal lawyers in Jacksonville, FL, let Dorsey Law JAX assist you. Our seasoned lawyers can help you get the best legal representation you need. Contact us today.   


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