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What’s The Difference Between Civil And Criminal Court?


Sometimes, there isn’t much of a difference between civil and criminal courts in Florida. Domestic protective orders are a good example. Criminal and civil judges alike have the power to make these orders in the Sunshine State, although criminal judges usually defer to civil judges, especially if the parties in a protective order are involved in a current family law dispute. However, for the most part, there are some major differences between civil and criminal courts. Some of these differences are outlined below.

Furthermore, adverse verdicts in civil and criminal court have both direct and indirect consequences. A Tampa criminal defense attorney works hard to reduce or eliminate these harsh consequences. This hard work includes protecting the civil rights that are unique to criminal court and also refuting the state’s case in court.

Purpose of Criminal Court

Typically, civil courts compensate injury victims, like crime victims. Criminal courts punish criminal offenders. It’s a Tampa criminal defense attorney’s job to ensure that this punishment is just and, more importantly, that police and prosecutors follow the rules.

When they arrest suspects, police officers must follow the rules in the Fourth and Fifth Amendment. They cannot unreasonably search property and seize contraband. Furthermore, once custodial interrogation begins, they must respect individual rights.

Prosecutors also have rules to follow. If they have evidence that helps defendants, like a witness statement that says the defendant wasn’t at the scene of the crime, they must turn that evidence over to defense attorneys. Furthermore, during trial, prosecutors can only make evidence-based arguments. They cannot make emotional arguments. Additionally, they cannot tamper with the jury in any way.

If police officers or prosecutors break these rules, a Tampa criminal defense lawyer needs to hold them accountable. If that doesn’t happen, police and prosecutors will feel like they take even bigger shortcuts the next time. Before long, individual rights are worth nothing.

Burden of Proof in Criminal Court

The burden of proof is probably the biggest difference between civil and criminal court. In civil court, parties must establish facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). But in criminal court, the burden of proof is beyond any reasonable doubt. In both forums, the evidence must be credible.

Some people probably remember the O.J. Simpson double murder trial in the 1990s. At first, the evidence against Simpson seemed overwhelming. But his attorneys undermined the lead police investgator’s credibility. So, the prosecutors just had weak circumstantial evidence that Simpson was a wife-beater who was prone to fits of anger. That wasn’t enough evidence to convict him of murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, that was enough evidence to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Simpson was liable for those two deaths. So, a separate civil jury ordered him to pay a huge amount of damages.

Incidentally, a prominent doctor recently said that Simpson probably sustained a brain injury during his football playing career. If true, that might excuse Simpson’s behavior in civil court. But it probably isn’t a defense in criminal court, unless his brain injury is so severe that he couldn’t tell the difference between right and wrong.

 Count on a Dedicated Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start fighting for you.


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1 Free Consultation Available 24/7

2 Handled Thousands of Criminal Cases

3 Tried Over 50 Cases

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