A civil offense is a private dispute between people or organizations. These disputes generally involve legal duties and responsibilities. Civil offenders are subject to heavy fines and judicial orders.
A civil case begins when a person or entity (the plaintiff) files a complaint against another for failure to fulfill its legal duty owed to the plaintiff. After this complaint has been filed and served, the other party has an opportunity to respond with an answer or demurrer. Following this response, the plaintiff carries the burden of proof in order to justify his claims.
Many cases take years to settle or approach trial. However, civil trials are relatively rare. There are two types of trials: bench trials and jury trials. Bench trials are decided by the judge, while jury trials are decided by a panel of randomly selected jurors. The plaintiff has an opportunity to request a jury trial after he has filed and served his complaint.
Civil suits very similar to criminal suits, but they differ in punishments and offenses. Criminal cases arise from offenses that may be harmful to society as a whole. In addition, the same conduct may result in both civil and criminal offenses. For example, the O.J. Simpson trial was both civil and criminal. O.J. Simpson was on trial for murder in a criminal suit and wrongful death in a civil suit for the same act.