When discussing court cases, people will often hear the terms "civil case" and "criminal case." The distinction between the two is very important because the outcomes of each type are different from each other. There are other differences, as well.
What is a criminal case?
A criminal case occurs when a person is accused of a crime by a prosecutor. These cases can be misdemeanor cases or felony cases. The outcomes of criminal cases can involve incarceration, fines, probation and other similar penalties if the person is convicted.
What is a civil case?
A civil case is one in which one person or entity makes a claim against another person or entity. Generally, these involve the concept of legal duty. That means that the plaintiff or complainant alleges that the defendant failed to meet the legal duty to the other party. A civil case can be filed in state or federal court, depending on the case. The penalties of civil cases don't involve incarceration or probation. They might include monetary awards for damages or court orders for specific actions.
As you can see, there are marked differences between civil and criminal cases. Knowing which type of case you have can help you learn how to proceed with your claims. The tie that binds these two types of cases together is that there are legal concepts, laws and statutes that apply. For this reason, making sure you understand everything pertaining to your case is vital. With a good understanding, you can work toward making the decisions about how to move forward with your case.
Source: FindLaw, "Civil Cases vs. Criminal Cases - Key Differences," accessed April. 03, 2015