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Civil Case: Differences Between Civil And Criminal Cases

Civil case refers to legal disputes that are mostly caused by parties seeking compensation or resolving a disagreement over legal rights. These cases differ from others, such as criminal cases which involve violation of criminal law. Civil lawsuits are cases between individuals where a plaintiff seeks damages against a defendant on grounds of causing harm or violation of rights.

The plaintiff demands compensatory damages or specific performance (the fulfilment of a contractual obligation). The categories handled in civil cases include personal injuries, contract disputes, property disputes, as well as family, labour, consumer, and employment disputes etc. A judge makes findings based on the presented evidence/data and statutes/applicable laws in a civil case and then decides upon the results.

Civil cases involve legal disputes which take place between the individuals, organizations or entities. One of these parties, which is the plaintiff, takes legal action against the other party (the defendant). Here the plaintiff could either demand the legal remedy or compensation for purported wrongs or damage done by the defendant. Civil cases differ from criminal cases in that while criminal cases are prosecutions of persons found guilty of breaking laws, civil cases pertain to private parties seeking either settlement or indemnification over a civil wrong.

Common Types of Civil Cases:

Some common types of civil cases are noted below:

  • Torts: The tort is a civil offence resulting in damage, or loss to an individual. These include personal injury incidents e.g., car accident or medical negligence, battery, fraud, defamation and negligence claims.
  • Contract Disputes: In case there is not adherence to an agreement or a contract, disputes will be classified under "civil law". Parties have the right to claim for damages, specific performance and other remedies delineated in the contract. Failing to deliver goods sold or promised, not paying in full or on time and not completing a job are disputes which may culminate in lawsuits.
  • Equitable Claims: The "equitable claim" typically requests a court's ruling that a given party should perform certain actions or refrain from performing a particular one. It may also work in combination with another compensation claim. Examples of such cases include a court order to halt the destruction of property, selling out in land and marketing to the business' customers.
  • Property Disputes: Disputable cases of real property (including land and buildings) and movable assets are classified under civil law. These among others include boundary disputes, landlords-tenants' problems, and proprietorship disputes.
  • Family Law Cases: These issues include divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, and adoption which are taken care by the civil courts. The law of family is intended to solve problems arising in family relations.
  • Landlord-tenant Claims: The civil courts deal with conflicts between a landlord and tenant. Some instances include cases where a landlord is suing his/her tenant in order to evict him/her from the rented premises or where a tenant, after moving out, files a lawsuit against the landlord demanding to be refunded his/her security deposit.
  • Probate and Estate Disputes: Civil law refers to disputes concerning wills, trusts, and division of property among other issues after a person's demise. The will and manner in which parties had shared some property could also be contested.
  • Employment and Labor Disputes: Civil courts deal with matters relating to employment such as wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment and breach of contract.
  • Consumer Protection Cases: Product liability, consumer fraud, unfair business practices and other cases related to consumers' rights fall under the purview of civil litigation.
  • Intellectual Property Disputes: Civil courts address conflicts related to intellectual property, encompassing areas like patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.
  • Civil Rights Cases: Civil actions are initiated because of violations of civil rights which include discrimination due to one's colour, sex, or disability.

The standard of proof in civil cases is usually lighter and is measured by a "preponderance of evidence test". It seeks a judgment that recognizes injury suffered by and makes for a proper recompense. In civil cases most disputes are settled by negotiations as mediations or even trial judgment of judges depending on needs.

Stages of Civil Lawsuits:

Most civil lawsuits can be divided broadly into the following stages:

Pre-filing stage. It is at this stage where a dispute springs up that compels the parties involved to collect more data, reach an amicable agreement or seek legal intervention if need be.

Pleading stage. This is where one party files a complaint to initiate the case and another reacts by sending answers or motions.

Discovery stage. In this process, the parties provide each other with information and learn about the strong points and weak areas of the opposite party.

Pre-trial stage. During this step of the process the two sides begin getting ready for trial. In this process, they start collating their evidence and witnesses in readiness, could be involved in settlement talks, as well as filing their motions in court to either settle or narrow down on the points at issue for trial.

Trial Stage. In civil cases, preponderance of the evidence is usually the burden of proof; in simple terms, the plaintiffs should show beyond reasonable doubt that indeed their assertions are credible.

In an ordinary criminal case trial, there is a more serious standard known as "beyond reasonable doubt", under which prosecutors need to show with great certainty that guilt of the accused is proven.

Post-trial stage. In this phase, either the plaintiff or defendant can make an appeal against the judgment entered at trial and also the plaintiff can move to collect the judgment.

However, not all civil cases proceed through these phases. The parties or the court may alter the steps. Some cases are governed by the special procedures of court's rules, while others are covered by the statutes.

Differences between Civil and Criminal Cases:

  1. Civil Cases are disputes that involve private parties like individuals, companies, and even governments. This is a suit that is intended to achieve either payment or resolve a civil wrong such as breach of a contract, an offense, or negligence that might have led to damage.
  2. Criminal Cases include acts regarded as crimes against the state or society. The prosecution is the state and it seeks to penalize a person who has breached criminal regulations.
  3. In civil cases, preponderance of the evidence is usually the burden of proof; in simple terms, the plaintiffs should show beyond reasonable doubt that indeed their assertions are credible. In an ordinary criminal case trial, there is a more serious standard known as "beyond reasonable doubt", under which prosecutors need to show with great certainty that guilt of the accused is proven.
  4. Civil Cases typically involve monetary compensation (damages) or equitable remedies such as injunctions or specific performance. Fines, probation, imprisonment of the guilty party, or any other form of a penalty that is deemed necessary in order to punish the guilty party for committing crimes.
  5. The parties in civil cases are typically known as the plaintiff, who brings the suit, and the defendant, who is against. The criminal cases have two sides, i.e., the prosecution acting as a representative of the government against a defendant. In Criminal Cases the parties are the prosecution (representing the government) and the defendant.
  6. The civil case begins with the plaintiff filing a complaint stating the allegations and relief requested. The prosecution presents charges or an indictment itemizing offenses alleged against defendants in criminal cases.
  7. The parties in civil cases can be represented legally, although this is not a constitutional right. The constitution grants the accused the right to counsel in criminal cases and if he does not have money to hire then the court assigns a free defense lawyer.
  8. Negotiating, mediating, or full trial in a civil court is what constitutes Civil Cases. Plea bargaining, trial, and alternative resolutions like diversion programs may resolve Criminal Cases.
  9. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 governs civil cases, whereas criminal cases are mainly conducted under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  10. In civil cases, there are no provisions against double jeopardy. The double jeopardy doctrine in which a person cannot be prosecuted twice for the same offense, is applied in criminal cases.
  11. In Civil Cases the outcome typically involves a judgment that may include monetary damages, injunctive relief or other remedies aimed at compensating the aggrieved party. Criminal Cases may result in 'guilty' or non 'guilty' verdict. The accused can be imprisoned, fined, placed on probation or be subjected to any other form of criminal punishment.
  12. In Civil Cases the trials aim at settling a dispute between two parties. In response, the plaintiff normally asks the court for a remedy against the defendant for the same reason. In Criminal Cases the goal is to assess the guilt of the defendant on the crime committed. It is incumbent on the state, through the prosecutor, to prove that the accused committed the crime with no doubts whatsoever.
  13. Civil Cases involve the plaintiff, which is a party that initiates a legal move and the defendant, who answers the plaintiff's claim. Central to this process is that of a judge who supervises the trial. In Criminal Cases, the parties involved are prosecution for the state and defendant accused of committing a crime. Determination of guilt is conducted by a judge.

  14. Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
    Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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