Chapter 2: The Court System

Section 2.2 - Trial Procedures

What are the differences between a civil case and a criminal case?

In a civil case the injured party begins the suit against another person regarding the legal duties and responsibilities they owe one another. These cases generally only result in monetary damages or an order to do or not do something.

To begin a civil case, the plaintiff (the person filing the case) must file a formal complaint (papers) with the court. In Licking County, the civil complaint fee is $200.

The criminal case begins with the arrest of the defendant (the person accused of a crime).

Criminal cases are considered offenses against the state, or society as a whole. These cases will have jail time or even death as a punishment, and sometimes also monetary fines.

Crimes must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt." This means the judge or jurors have no doubt the defendant committed the crime--there is no other logical explanation. Civil cases are proven by "the preponderance of the evidence," which means the issue most likely occurred and can be proven with clear and convincing evidence.

Criminal cases are typically decided by a jury and while some civil cases are heard by a jury, many are decided by a judge.

In a criminal case, the defendant is entitled to an attorney and will be appointed one if they cannot afford to hire their own. The defendant in a civil case must provide for their own attorney or defend themselves.

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First step of a jury trial is jury selection.

During the jury selection process the lawyers question each potential juror to find out if they will be fair or prejudiced.
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