Lawsuits and court dates happen every day, but most people don’t spend much time in court. Many of us aren’t used to being in front of a judge and seeing firsthand how the actions of others can impact their life and our own in such a substantial way.
If you find yourself the victim of a crime, it may seem unreal at first. After the initial shocks wears off, you may not know how to proceed. In the judicial branch of the United States of America, there are two types of courts to deal with crime: civil court and criminal court. In this blog, we will outline the differences of each court so you can understand your options.
If you’ve ever watched a cop procedural drama, you probably already have a vague idea of how criminal court works.
We’ll put it in simple terms: in criminal court, the government makes a formal accusation (known as an indictment) against one or more parties who have broken the law. When the law is broken, the victim of the crime is not the party who asks for punishment. The legal system takes the responsibility to see that justice is served on behalf of its citizens.
You may have to appear in criminal court if you are accused of any of the following:
- Sex crimes such as rape or the distribution of child pornography
- Threatening government officials
- Committing crimes on federal property
- Possessing weapons, drugs, or other illegal items
- White collar crimes such as financial and mail fraud, counterfeiting, and tax evasion
- Bank robbery or theft of government property
If you are in federal court as the defendant, it is the law that the courts provide you with an attorney. That attorney presents your case to a jury of twelve people. Jurors are always used in criminal trials.
If you convicted of a crime in criminal court, you must be guilty “beyond reasonable doubt.” This is another way civil court differs from criminal court. In criminal court, there are lower measurement to determine if someone is guilty or not. When defendants in criminal court are found guilty, they may face jail time, fines, or other punishments from the government, such as community service.
In the United States, citizens have the right to use civil court to sue those they feel have caused them damages. A civil case can occur in congruence with a criminal lawsuit or on its own. Some of the reasons to sue someone in civil court include:
- Dog bites
- Slip and falls
- Broken contracts
- Workers compensation
- Auto accidents
- Neglect and abuse
- Death cases
As you can see, people can bring civil cases against others for a variety of reasons. Some of the first few reasons include things you might not realize can be settled in court. Near the end of the list, you start seeing larger-scale crimes that could also be pursued in a criminal court.
However, criminal court rarely awards monetary contributions to the victim. For this reason, many victims choose to take those who have wronged them to civil court.
Unlike criminal court, lawyers are not appointed by the government in civil court. Defendants either must pay for their own lawyers or defend themselves. Civil court also differs in that judge determines conviction in lieu of a jury.
Call a Lawyer
If you think you have a case for civil court, call a personal injury lawyer. They will often sit down with you and tell you if you have a case before proceeding. Either way, it’s always a good idea to explore your options when it comes to the law.