It is sometimes the case with criminal charges that accused not only stands trial in state court, but is also served a civil suit related to the same incident. What is the difference between these two courts and how do criminal convictions and civil judgments vary?
The easiest way to understand the difference between criminal charges and civil suits is to look at who is actually accusing the individual of wrongdoing. In criminal court, the accused is suspected of breaking laws set by the state, so the prosecution represents the state. This is why we so often see "Mr. John Doe vs The State of Washington" and so on.
In civil suits, accusations are made by a person or entity (the plaintiff) against another person or entity (the defendant).
Civil courts see a variety of different cases, which can include :
- Probate cases
- Wrongful death suits
- Family law and divorce
- Small claims cases
- Landlord/tenant cases
Depending on the details of the trial and the scope of the case, civil suits are decided with by a jury or just simply a judge. As a point of reference, most reality law shows on television depict civil courts, mostly small claims, where judges solely decide the fate of the case and legally bind the parties to actions that resolves their dispute.
Crossovers Between Criminal & Civil Courts
How can cases in these two courts intersect? In some instances, the same case can be addressed in both courts. For example, if a suspected murderer is acquitted in criminal court of all charges, loved ones of the victim can still serve the suspect in civil court for wrongful death (and allege the individual's actions still resulted in the death). The laws each court upholds are different, but the incident addressed remains the same across both procedures.
If you've been charged with a crime you fear might turn into a civil suit as well, a proven Edmonds criminal defense attorney at Johanson Law Group, Inc. is prepared with answers you need to navigate your case to the best possible income.
Contact me for a free case evaluation today!