In criminal cases, a victim of a crime does not sue, but rather the State (plaintiff) sues the person allegedly committing the crime (defendant), and the victim becomes a witness in the case.
What is a criminal case?
A criminal case is one in which the local, state or federal government brings an action (lawsuit) in the name of all of its citizens. The plaintiff is the government agency, and it is acting on behalf of the people. The government is represented in court by the local state attorney or the U.S. attorney, depending upon whether the alleged crime is prosecuted in state court or federal court.
Who are the defendants in a criminal case?
In a criminal case, the accused, also known as a “defendant,” is charged with a crime against society — that is, a violation of the laws regulating our conduct, such as murder, assault, conspiracy, theft, DUI, vandalism, robbery, etc. In addition, less serious conduct such as driving without a license may also violate criminal laws.
How does a criminal case proceed?
In a criminal case, the prosecutor or a grand jury decides whether to start proceedings. If a defendant is found guilty, the punishment can be: fines, reimbursement to victims, attending classes to educate the offender on avoiding similar behavior, attendance at drug or alcohol counseling, probation, jail and/or prison. The punishment depends on the circumstances and the type of crime. In cases involving murder where the state has decided to pursue the death penalty, the punishment could be a death sentence and ultimate execution.
What is the burden of proof in a criminal case?
In criminal cases, because the person charged with a crime (defendant) is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, the prosecution must prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This does not mean beyond all possible or speculative doubt, but it does mean the court or jury must have an abiding conviction to a moral certainty of the truth of the charge. Because a person’s liberty and freedom are at stake, the standard for prosecutors proving the case is necessarily a higher burden than the proof required in a civil case.
Who gets to testify in a criminal case?
In criminal cases, the testifying witnesses are just a bit different because a criminal defendant (the accused person) cannot be forced to testify. The accused has the right to remain silent at all stages of the criminal case, from arrest through trial, and also to be represented by an attorney appointed by the court and without charge if the person doesn’t have the means to hire an attorney. In criminal cases, the accused has many rights that defendants in civil cases do not have. Again, this is due in part to the fact that a criminally accused person may lose liberty or freedom and be required to go to jail or prison.