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Key Differences Between Civil and Criminal Cases

New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer

A civil case is usually a private dispute between two parties. On the other hand, a criminal case involves actions that are considered to be detrimental to society as a whole and requires a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer instead of a civil attorney. There are many differences between civil and criminal cases that are important to know if you or a loved one is involved in a criminal case in New Jersey.

Civil Case vs. Criminal Case

Initiation Of A Case

One main difference between civil and criminal cases is how a case is brought about and by whom. Whereas civil cases are brought on by a person or organization suing another person or organization, criminal charges are brought by the government. A common misconception is that the victim sues the defendant; but in reality, it is the state attorney’s office bringing the charges and prosecuting the defendant. A defendant should be represented by a skilled New Jersey criminal defense lawyer who can develop winning defense strategies.

Burden of Proof

A burden of proof is the standard that the party bringing the action must meet when presenting evidence. In a civil case, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence (more than a 50% probability that the defendant is at fault). This is a relatively low standard.

The state, on the other hand, has the highest burden, which is beyond a reasonable doubt. If you were to quantify this standard, it would be about a 98% or 99% level of certainty. The defendant is presumed to be innocent and has no obligation to prove anything (unless he raises an affirmative defense).


So what happens if the defendant is found at fault? Civilly, a defendant is found liable if the jury decides that he failed to fulfill his legal duty to the plaintiff. As such, the defendant must “make the plaintiff whole”; usually that means paying a sum of money.

In a criminal case, there is a sentencing phase if the defendant is found guilty. Potential punishment includes:

  • Fines and court costs
  • Incarceration
  • Execution

Some cases may result in plea deals or diversionary programs.

Call A New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

The legal world can be a confusing place, especially when trying to understand the many differences between a civil and criminal case. If you’ve been involved in a civil case before, you may have some misconceptions about your criminal case. There’s no need to stress! Contact Mark Catanzaro, top-rated criminal defense lawyer in New Jersey, for a free consultation.


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