The United States is the number one place to be sued in the world, with Americans filing over 40 million lawsuits each year. If you become involved in a civil lawsuit, you may want to know if the case could turn criminal or vice versa. This article will explain the difference between the two types of cases and how one lawsuit can trigger another.
Civil & Criminal Cases, What’s the Difference?
The main difference between a civil case and a criminal case is that a civil case is a dispute between private citizens, whereas a criminal case is initiated by the state against someone they believe committed a crime. Common types of civil cases include divorces, child custody, child support, and contract disputes. Criminal cases include any in which an individual broke a criminal law, including murder, theft, and domestic abuse.
Civil lawsuits belong to the individual who files them, and criminal lawsuits belong to the state. The individual who files the civil lawsuit can make decisions about the progress of the case, including the decision to settle or continue fighting. Criminal cases are different in the sense that once a criminal complaint is made, it then belongs to the state. The state has the power to move forward with the lawsuit on its own, and it no longer belongs to the individual who made the initial complaint.
Can a Civil Case Turn Criminal?
Although uncommon, civil cases may turn criminal if a criminal action is uncovered during the lawsuit. For example, a divorce is a civil case. If a criminal act, like domestic violence to a minor, is uncovered during the divorce preceding, then the state may decide to pursue a criminal case.
It is much more common for criminal cases to become civil. A criminal case may be followed by the alleged victim filing a civil case where the alleged victim can seek monetary damages. The purpose of the civil suit is to provide monetary compensation for any losses suffered, such as medical costs or damage to property.