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The legal systems of all many countries comprises two main types of cases namely, criminal and legal cases. In general, criminal cases are prosecuted by the state because they are normally transgressions against its laws. Examples of crimes include murder, sexual assault, identity theft, and robbery with violence (Mendell 17). On the other hand, civil cases involve disputes between people regarding the fulfillment or the failure to fulfill their legal responsibilities toward one another. Examples of civil cases include problems involving contracts, inheritance, or family problems such as divorce (Neubauer and Fradella 26).
One of the main differences between the two types of cases is the terms of their punishment. As mentioned earlier, crimes are offences against the state and society in general. Therefore, their punishments are harsher. In that regard, the punishment for crimes involves jail sentences that range from few months to several years Bevans 7). In certain cases, punishment involves both a jail sentence and monetary damages. In contrast, civil cases usually involve monetary punishments (Bevans 8). The accused is asked by the court to pay monetary damages or desist from acting in certain ways. “In a civil trial, the jury can award monetary payments from one party to another” (Bevans 8).
In both cases, the standard of proof is different and unique in each case. Criminal cases must be investigated thoroughly in order to ensure that an innocent individual is not punished for a crime they did not commit (Cross and Miller 34). “In a criminal case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt” (Bevans 7). The standard is very high because the crimes are highly severe and the legal liability of criminal cases is more blameworthy (Bevans 8). On the contrary, the standard of proving civil cases is lower because the punishment is less severe and liability less blameworthy. In most cases, criminal cases are tried by a jury while civil cases are usually tried by a judge (Neubauer and Fradella 33).
Criminal cases are very serious. Therefore, a defendant is entitled to an attorney, and if they cannot afford one, the state appoints one for them. In contrast, defendants in civil cases hire their own attorneys (Cross and Miller 37). In case they cannot afford them, they shoulder the responsibility of defending themselves. The state does not provide an attorney. Defendants in criminal cases are also given several protections by the state. For instance, they are protected against illegal searches and torture (Cross and Miller 41). These protections are given because criminal cases have greater consequences. They are hard to prove and there is a high possibility of a jail sentence or even death. In contrast, these protections are not available to defendants in civil cases because their consequences are not as great as those of criminal cases.
Finally, the two types of cases have different underlying principles. In criminal cases, a person is usually accused of committing a certain crime (Harris 31). For example, a person is accused of murder, assault, or robbery. The main aim of a criminal case is to discourage criminal behavior and encourage people to respect the law (Mendell 55). On the other hand, a civil case involves one person suing another person for either causing damage to them or their property. The main goal of taking a civil case is to ask for compensation for damages done.
The main purpose of taking a case to court is to get justice and make sure that people respect the law. Whenever a case hearing is conclude, a judge or jury either orders financial compensation or issues a punishment. Criminal cases involve people accused of crimes such as theft, forgery, kidnapping, rape, arson, and murder. On the other hand, civil cases involve accusations of failure to honor one’s legal duties or responsibilities owed to another person. Examples include defamation, contract law cases, and medical malpractice.
Bevans, Neal. Criminal Law and Procedure for the Paralegal. Cengage Learning, 2014.
Cross, Frank, and Roger LeRoy Miller. The Legal Environment of Business: Text and Cases. Cengage Learning, 2014.
Harris, Phil. An Introduction to Law. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Mendell, Ronald. Probing into Cold Cases: A Guide for Investigators. Charles C Thomas Publisher, 2014.
Neubauer, David, and Henry Fradella. America’s Courts and the Criminal Justice System. Cengage Learning, 2015.