Criminal And Civil Justice

Criminal And Civil Justice Both the criminal and civil justice system can be used by victims to seek justice. The burden of proof required and the role played by the victim are the two main differences between the criminal and civil justice systems.

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  • In civil cases, liability must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. 
  • In a criminal trial, the state controls proceedings and the victim is a witness in the prosecution. In a civil lawsuit, the victim is the one who makes the key decisions, such as whether to go to court, accept an offer of settlement or sue.

Criminal Justice Process

The criminal justice process begins when a crime is committed and reported to the law enforcement. After an arrest and charges are filed, the criminal justice system can prosecute the offender. The crime is then considered “a crime committed against the state.” The civil justice system doesn’t try to determine an offender’s guilt or innocence. It is more important to determine if the offender, or a third-party, is responsible for the injury sustained by the victim as a consequence of the crime. If a civil court finds the defendant liable, he/she must usually pay monetary damages to the victim or the victim’s family. Civil justice can help victims rebuild their lives by providing them with financial resources. It can also hold defendants directly responsible for the victim if they are found to be liable. The majority of crime victims are entitled to sue for financial compensation against the perpetrators or others who’s unreasonable behavior created the conditions which allowed the crime. In civil cases, a plaintiff must show that there is greater than a 50% chance that the defendant has committed all elements of the cause of action. In civil cases, the defendant can be found liable even if the criminal case ended in “not guilty”.

Criminal Lawsuits

  • The goal is to hold the defendant responsible to the state.
  • The state prosecutes the case and controls it.
  • The victim is not a party to the proceedings and has no right to direct prosecution or veto prosecutor decisions.
  • The State must prove the criminal’s guilt “beyond reasonable doubt.”
  • The perpetrator is presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise.
  • The perpetrator will be punished by the state if found guilty. This may include probation or jail. The victim cannot receive money until the court orders that the defendant pay for the victim’s expenses. The court can’t order restitution if the damages are non-economic.
  • The state can’t bring a second case if the perpetrator has been found not guilty.

Civil Lawsuits

  • The goal is to hold the defendant responsible to the victim who is called the Plaintiff. 
  • The Plaintiff initiates the case and controls it.
  • The Plaintiff is a party to the lawsuit and has the right to receive all relevant information. She can also make decisions regarding the direction of the suit, such as settling the claim.
  • The Plaintiff must show that it’s more probable than not that an offender is responsible.
  • Both the Plaintiff and the Defendant are portrayed as being equals.
  • The Defendant, if found liable, will have a civil judgment entered against him or her. This includes money for compensation of medical and therapy costs, psychological damages, harm to family relationships and lost wages. The court may order that the Defendant pay non-economic damages such as pain, suffering and punitive damage.
  • The Plaintiff may sue the perpetrator regardless of whether he or she has been convicted in criminal court.


A criminal court can order that a perpetrator reimburse expenses incurred by the victim, their survivors or anyone else who has become responsible for the victim’s maintenance and support as a result of a crime. Unfortunately, even if a court has ordered restitution, the money is not always collected. This lack of enforcement–combined with limitations on the type of damages that may be included in a restitution order–often results in restitution falling far short of meeting victims’ needs. Make Restitution Real is the National Center’s guide to collecting fees and penalties ordered by the court.

State Crime Victim Compensation

Victims may receive compensation from the crime victim compensation funds of their state. Compensation funds reimburse victims of certain expenses and losses resulting from a crime. These include funeral costs, medical bills and counseling fees. Compensation may be reduced if the victim received money from an insurance company or another source. State laws also limit the amount of money that can be awarded for a specific crime or loss. Other restrictions apply to eligibility for compensation.

Statutes Limitations (SOLs).

In the realm of Criminal and Civil Justice, understanding statutes of limitation is crucial as they vary from one state to another. A lawsuit filed after the SOL has expired is “time barred” and cannot be pursued. This is a critical aspect in both criminal and civil justice cases. The time limit for filing a lawsuit may be extended in cases where victims are children or have repressed memories. If you have any questions about statutes of limitation, especially in the context of criminal and civil justice, it is best to contact an attorney who specializes in these areas. The National Crime Victim Bar Association has more information on filing a civil or criminal lawsuit.

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