Criminal and Civil Cases


Criminal cases deal with crimes committed against the state. Examples of such cases include assault, murder, burglary and bribery, etc. A criminal case is only filed by the Government and is represented in court by the prosecutor. The accused party is referred as the defendant. The prosecutor is expected to proof beyond no doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged for. On the other hand, a civil case takes place when a complaint is filed by a given party which may be a corporation or individual. The party that commences the complaint is referred as a plaintiff while the other party from which relief is sought is the defendant. Examples of civil cases are property disputes, contract disputes, divorce proceedings, etc (Schulze et al., 2002).

Burden of Proof

In criminal cases, it is the discretion of the Government to prove that the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged. The defendant is assumed to be innocent unless proven guilty. The prosecutor must also satisfy all the elements which determine whether a crime is committed. At the end, the jury establishes whether the defendant is guilty or not. In civil cases, it the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant is responsible for damages. The burden of proof in civil cases is lower than that of criminal cases. The jury determines whether a prudent and reasonable man would have acted in such a manner. It is the defendant’s right to rebut the evidence provided by the plaintiff. When the defendant is found guilty, he is required to pay for loss or damages depending on the jury’s decision (Abadinsky, 2003).

Constitutional Protection

In a criminal case, the defendant cannot be convicted of a crime that came into place after he had performed the offense. The defendant has the right to a counsel and a speedy trial. He is also protected from seizures and unreasonable searches. Very few protections exist in civil cases; an example is the concept of res judicata: the defendant can only have one trial if all the issues he is accused of come from a single occurrence (Abadinsky, 2003).


Criminal and civil courts differ in their operation, burden of proof and how they are conducted. Each court has its mandate and characteristics which are independent and different. In the O. J. Simpson case, the plaintiff was found liable due to his recklessness. However, the criminal court was unable to prove beyond reasonable doubt that O.J. Simpson committed a first degree murder.

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