What's the Difference Between Civil vs. Criminal Assault Cases?

An act of assault could lead to two types of cases: a civil liability case and a criminal assault case.

Civil cases are brought by one or more parties against another party or parties. Generally, people sue in civil court because they suffered damages caused by another party – in this case, damages caused by the assault. The goal of most civil suits is to win compensation from the other party.

On the other hand, the state brings criminal cases when someone allegedly violated a criminal statute. The government charges people with crimes and, if found guilty, punishes them accordingly.

Criminal trials differ from civil trials in several ways, the biggest being that they have a higher standard of proof. In a criminal trial, a guilty verdict requires that the members of the jury believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime in question. By contrast, in a civil trial, the accused can be liable with a simple preponderance of the evidence, meaning the jury feels it is more likely than not that the accused is responsible.

How Does a Criminal Assault Case Work?

Criminal assault cases are brought by the state, not by the injured party. Generally, after an assault occurs, the victim reports the incident to the police. The police then investigate. If they find evidence that the assault indeed occurred, they arrest the suspect and charge them with assault.

Next, the state reviews the evidence from the police and determines if enough evidence exists to bring formal charges in court. If so, the state formally charges the suspect with assault. The defendant may then face a trial in front of a jury, which will decide on the defendant’s guilt. If guilty, the defendant may face jail time or other penalties.

How Does a Civil Assault Case Work?

A victim of assault may choose to bring an intentional tort action against the defendant who committed the assault. But the victim may choose to file a negligent tort action against other parties who contributed to the assault. For example, a victim may sue the property owner on which the assault occurred by alleging negligent security contributed to the assault.

Insurance companies may be involved in civil cases, especially when suing a property owner for negligent security. A personal injury lawyer can help negotiate a fair settlement, but some civil cases proceed to trial where a jury will decide if the defendant (e.g., the perpetrator of the assault and/or the property owner) is liable. If so, the jury may decide the amount of money the defendant must pay the victim.

Do Criminal and Civil Assault Cases Always Have the Same Outcome?

No, civil and criminal assault cases do not always have the same outcome. A defendant can be acquitted of a criminal charge and then found liable for the same incident in a civil case.

Because of the lesser standard in civil court versus criminal court, it is not uncommon for a defendant to be cleared of criminal charges but still liable in civil court. Civil cases require only a preponderance of the evidence to find the defendant liable, which, essentially amounts to a 50.1 percent chance or greater that the respondent is liable. Criminal cases, on the other hand, require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Call 404-842-7838 to Speak With a Lawyer About Your Civil Assault Case

If you are the victim of assault and wish to pursue a civil case against the perpetrator or other liable parties, S. Burke Law would be happy to discuss your case with you. We offer free consultations where we answer all your questions. Call 404-842-7838.