Civil vs. Criminal Charges

Justice System

Law in IllinoisWhen you do something wrong, either against a person or a property of somebody else, you may be charged with two different cases. One is a criminal charge and the other is a civil charge. But is this at all possible?

Even before you raise your eyebrows, it’s important to note several distinctions between a criminal case and a civil case.

What is the Nature of the Offense?

Criminal defense attorneys say if the offense is committed against the state or society in general, it’s considered a criminal offense. This is where most people are confused because civil offenses are committed against persons. If, for example, you murdered another person, it is technically a civil offense. However, since killing another person is inherently wrong in general society, it becomes a crime against the state.

Who Can File a Case?

Since a crime is an offense made against the state, only the state, through its prosecutor, can file a criminal case against you. That is why in most criminal cases in Illinois and other states, you will read People vs. John Doe. In civil cases, it is the aggrieved or wronged person who will file a civil case, so you will read Jane Doe vs. John Doe.

How about the Standards of Proof?

According to criminal defense attorneys in Jacksonville, since the punishments for criminal offenses are essentially harsh, the law requires that the criminal offense must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. This means the prosecution must prove without any doubt that you committed the crime complete with motive. Civil cases, on the other hand, only require the assumption of preponderance of evidence. To keep it simple, as long as you can prove that the defendant more than likely did you wrong, then he must be punished.

Who Decides on the Case?

For criminal cases, decisions are often made by a jury of peers, except in some sensational cases. For civil offenses, a judge is enough to make a decision.

What are the Punishments?

For criminal offenses, punishment may involve prison term and fines as well as other punitive sanctions. For civil cases, it can only be in the form of compensation or other punishments deemed appropriate by the judge.

Now, is it at all possible to be slapped with a criminal charge and a civil case at the same time? Unfortunately, yes. The state will bring the criminal charges against you. And if the person you have offended is also going to file a complaint, it will be a separate civil case.