What's the difference between a civil offence and a criminal one?


Quick Answer

A civil offence is an offence that arises due to a dispute between individuals, usually of a business nature, while a criminal offence occurs when a crime is committed against the state. Criminal offences are prosecuted by the state, whereas civil disputes are fought between the affected parties.

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Full Answer

Since a criminal offence is considered to be committed against the state, a prosecutor is assigned to pursue the case against the alleged offender. In a civil suit, the wronged party files a suit, and must provide a representative to pursue the case against the defendant. Criminal cases have jail time as part of the penalty for guilt, along with possible fines, probation and additional legal instructions the convicted defendant must follow. Civil cases lack jail time as an option if the case goes against the defendant, though fines and monetary restitution are often ordered, as well as additional legal orders that the presiding judge may deem appropriate.

While criminal offences tend to allow for trial by jury by right, civil cases are often decided by a judge alone. The burden of proof also differs between criminal and civil offences, with criminal cases requiring that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, while civil cases only require that the bulk of evidence presented prove the case against the defendant.

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