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Experts Speak

John Giorgi helps understand the difference between civil cases and criminal cases

Laws help address issues related to the wrongdoings of people that can happen in a variety of manner. Of course, it will not be wrong to say that there is no end to wrongdoing. However, luckily, there are laws for addressing the issues within the framework of the justice system. According to the American justice system, people’s wrongdoings come under two categories of laws – civil laws and criminal laws. Therefore, before seeking remedy for any wrong done against you, be clear about the legal domain to which it belongs.

Suppose the dispute or grievance relates to something that amounts to irreconcilable differences in the views or stands taken by organizations of individuals. In that case, it is a case fit for the civil laws. But, on the other hand, if some action by a person or organization appears to be harmful to society as a whole, it would amount to criminal cases, explains John Giorgi.

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Civil cases

Civil cases entail a plaintiff that might be any individual, group, or organization that lodges a complaint in the court against another party known as a defendant, alleging that the latter has failed to discharge the legal duties owed to the plaintiff. Collectively, the parties involved in the case are known by the name of litigants. The plaintiff might ask the court to direct the defendant to pay compensation for the damages or harm done or fulfill the duty or both. The rights established under the Constitution comprise the legal duties under state law or federal law.

Both the state and federal courts entertain civil suits, and a typical example is a case related to some breach of contract. It can happen between a seller and buyer in any commercial dealing of any scale. A contract is binding upon both the seller and buyer. Therefore, any act by any of the parties amounting to a violation of the legal duty can result in one party suing the other party by lodging a civil case in the court.

Criminal cases

When the law enforcing agencies or any individual or organization brings about an accusation known as ‘indictment’ or ‘information’ in the legal parlance, it leads to a criminal case.  The terms used in the case indicate the nature of the crime. An indictment is a term used for serious crimes or felonies, and for misdemeanors, lawyers use the term information. When a person is charged with a federal crime, the government prosecutes the case on behalf of the citizens of America through the United States Attorney’s office.   The office of the District Attorney handles state crimes.

In criminal cases like kidnapping, the government’s responsibility is to prosecute the offender while the victim does not become a party to the case. However, some criminal cases might not involve any specific victim. Cases of DUI or drunken driving are typical examples of the government suing people who violate the laws of safe driving that do not include any victim.

If the court determines that the accused person has committed a crime, then the person receives a sentence ranging from monetary compensation to probation and even imprisonment.

 

 

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by Sujain Thomas

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