Can a Civil Case Turn Into a Criminal Case?

In the American justice system, the wrongdoings people commit are addressed with two different types of cases: civil and criminal. Generally speaking, civil cases involve disputes between parties regarding the legal duties and responsibilities they owe to one another. These cases are handled through civil lawsuits and prosecuted in civil court. Criminal cases, on the other hand, are offenses against the state, even if immediate harm is done to a person. The state prosecutes these cases in a criminal court. Although these cases are treated differently, many fail to recognize that the same conduct can result in criminal and civil liability in New Jersey. Please continue reading to learn about the overlap between these cases and how a trusted Bergen County Criminal Defense Attorney can help safeguard your rights. 

What is the Difference Between a Civil Case and a Criminal Case?

In a civil case, an aggrieved party files a claim against another person or entity for alleged civil wrongdoing, such as suffering injuries in an accident resulting from another party’s negligence. In a civil case, the plaintiff is the aggrieved party, and the defendant is the accused wrongdoer. In a criminal case, however, the state prosecutor files charges against an alleged wrongdoer on behalf of the citizens of New Jersey.

If the plaintiff prevails in a civil case, they may recover damages through monetary compensation. However, if the defendant prevails in a criminal case or the accused pleads guilty to the charges, the judge must impose penalties against the defendant by the New Jersey Penal Code. The final penalties a judge may impose in a criminal case include probation, jail time, monetary fines, community service, etc. The penalties will depend on the severity of the underlying criminal charge and the defendant’s prior criminal history. In a civil case, the judge’s ruling will not result in criminal penalties but monetary compensation to the affected parties.

Furthermore, the burden of proof in a criminal case lies with the state prosecutor. The state prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Similarly, in a civil case, the aggrieved individual holds the legal burden of proof. In both cases, the defendant doesn’t have to satisfy any legal burden.

Can a Civil Legal Matter Lead to Criminal Charges?

As mentioned above, the same conduct can result in civil and criminal liability in New Jersey. Although civil and criminal matters proceed in different courts, a civil matter could be prosecuted in criminal court if the defendant had the necessary intent. An individual could win a criminal matter yet be forced to pay monetary damages in the accompanying civil case. When a defendant causes an accident or injury and they broke the law, the doctrine of negligence per se gets invoked. When this happens, a civil wrong could result in criminal charges.

If you are facing one or more criminal charges arising from a civil legal matter, it’s essential to contact a skilled attorney from The Law Office of Carl Spector, who can help you explore your legal options and fight to secure favorable results.