civil law

civil law

Criminal Court Versus Civil Court

The judicial branch of government can be particularly complicated for those not well versed in law. A certain distinction that baffles many is the differences between criminal and civil (or “tort”) law.

Most of the cases you see on television, either on the news or in movies, are criminal cases. These are typically more interesting to an audience because the stakes for the defendant are higher. These are the cases in which the government (municipal, provincial or federal) is the plaintiff and the defendant may face a prison sentence, and, in some cases (although in receding numbers), a death sentence. The defendant is innocent until proven guilty, which means the burden of proof rests on the government. Because the results of the trial are so burdensome and consequential to the defendant, the court requires that guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard may be at around 99%. However, lawyers are reluctant to assign a numerical value.
Tort law is different on multiple levels. When you hear of someone being “sued,” they are facing civil litigation. The plaintiff in this case is not the government, but an individual or corporation, often assisted by lawyers such as personal injury lawyers in Baltimore. The defendant in these cases does not face jail time. Yet they may be forced to pay punitive damages (as a form of punishment) as well as compensatory damages to the plaintiff. For the court to rule the defendant guilty, the plaintiff must present a preponderance of evidence, which means that there should be more than a 50% chance that the defendant is guilty. This is because loss of money is seen as less serious than imprisonment. Personal injury lawyers in Baltimore are experienced in these cases and are dedicated to helping victims of personal injury.

A defendant can face litigation in both criminal and civil court. Interestingly, the results do not need to be the same in each case. Because the standards for a guilty verdict are different in criminal and civil litigation, a defendant may be deemed innocent in a criminal case but guilty in a tort case for the same crime. O.J. Simpson experienced this when he faced allegations of murdering his wife and her lover. In the criminal case, the verdict was not guilty as the evidence was not apparently enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There was, however, a preponderance of evidence proving that there was greater than a 50% chance he had committed these heinous crimes and was guilty of wrongful death, entitling family of the victims to financial compensation through tort litigation.

If you have been harmed and wish to pursue the party responsible through civil litigation, contact a Baltimore MD personal injury lawyer today for a free consultation.