Civil VS Criminal Courts

August 9, 2023


There are many different types of courts, however criminal courts are much different from all other court types. In criminal courts, the police enforce the laws, and defendants have a constitutional right to be represented by an attorney.

This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment broker expert, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer. The Supreme court has ruled that juvenile criminal cases are to be considered as civil cases. There are seven major differences between civil and criminal courts:

1) Criminal court cases focus mostly on the proper punishments against defendants. Punishments may include the goals of deterrence, probation, rehabilitation, retribution, community service, restitution (which names an amount of money the defendant owes their victim plaintiff), and incapacitation (locking someone up, or worse).

Civil court cases focus on the property, or the amount of money, one party owes to another. Usually, when civil money judgments are awarded, they are awarded to the plaintiff(s) as compensatory and/or punitive damages. Civil courts can award punitive monetary damages with the goal of deterrence and/or retribution. Civil courts may also occasionally order involuntary commitments, usually in medical rehabilitation situations.

2) In criminal cases, fines are usually paid to the government, and except for restitution awards, and not to other parties. In civil cases, money judgments are usually awarded to the plaintiff(s). There is no guarantee that the plaintiffs or their assigns, will be able to recover anything, because what judgments list as being owed is often theoretical.

3) Criminal cases are prosecuted by those paid by the government. Civil cases are usually prosecuted by the plaintiffs, or an attorney hired to represent them.

4) Defendants in criminal courts have more constitutional protections and rights than defendants in civil courts. In criminal cases, defendants have rights against unreasonable (and certain warrantless) searches and seizures, rights against cruel and unusual punishment, rights against excessive fines, rights to an appointed lawyer, rights to a jury trial, rights against double jeopardy, rights against self-incrimination, rights to a speedy trial, etc.

5) Criminal judgments have much more social stigma than civil judgments do. Civil judgments might not affect the defendant(s) at all. Criminal judgments can affect the defendant’s rights, for example not being legally allowed to own guns, reduced employment opportunities, and depending on the crime; having to register their names and addresses in public directories.

6) Civil cases are usually decided using the “preponderance of evidence” standard of proof, and occasionally a “clear and convincing evidence” standard of proof. Criminal cases always require the highest level of proof, which is “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

7) In criminal courts, defendants do not have any constitutional rights to have their assets be protected, or to have their assets be represented by an attorney. Sometimes criminal courts protect the defendant’s assets so they can fund their own defense. In California, a law related to civil and criminal court actions is CCP 128.7.

8) Usually, criminal judgments (sometimes called restitution judgments) never expire.

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