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Can a Civil Case Ever Turn into a Criminal Case?

Without a law degree, the details of trials and cases can be confusing and overwhelming. Some rules and regulations can be difficult to keep track of. For example, what is considered a civil case, and what is considered a criminal case? Can a civil case turn into a criminal case? Read on to find out. Speak with an experienced Bergen County criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal needs and acquire skilled representation.

What is the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case?

The major difference between civil and criminal cases is that civil cases typically involve a dispute between individuals or organizations, while criminal cases involve a person’s violation of a criminal law.

When a person commits a crime, it is considered an offense against the state even when the crime involves another individual. The district attorney will usually act as the prosecutor and represent the state during the case. However, civil cases involve issues that people or entities have with one another. One of the parties involved would file the case, not the district attorney.

Civil cases are decided usually through a bench trial, where a judge makes a ruling alone. Criminal cases are conducted via trial by jury. There are some instances where a civil case may require a jury but it is not nearly as common.

Criminal cases will usually face more severe punishments than civil cases. In a criminal case, the defendant could be subject to both fines and imprisonment. A civil case will only result in penalties of monetary damages or injunctions.

Because of the difference in penalties, the standard of proof also differs between a civil or criminal case. For the defendant of a criminal case to be convicted they must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no reasonable way that they did not commit the crime. However, in civil cases, the standard of proof is lower and can be called the preponderance of evidence. This simply means that it must be proven that the situation is more than likely true.

When Can a Civil Case Turn into a Criminal Case?

It is possible that a civil case could create cause for a criminal investigation. Evidence is necessary in any case, including civil cases. If during the evidence-gathering process, some information is discovered that alludes to a violation of the law, it may be necessary for a new criminal case to be opened. For example, imagine there is a civil suit between two companies. One company may request access to the other’s financial records if it is relevant to the case. If they are granted access and accidentally come across evidence that the company is committing tax evasion, it could prompt the creation of a criminal lawsuit.

While the above is true, it is important to note that the civil case is not technically turning into a criminal case. They are two separate cases and will be prosecuted as such.

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