Legal Question in Civil Rights Law in Alabama

If certain acts are both crimes and torts, why couldn't you let the prosecutor both bring criminal charges against the defendant and bring suit for damages for the victim at the same time?

Asked on 10/03/13, 6:44 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

In Criminal Law, the Prosecutor is asserting the State's right to enforce its power over the Accused. A crime is an affront to all citizens and not just the specific victim of the crime. In Civil Lawsuits, the Plaintiff is a citizen asserting his or her rights over the Defendant, another citizen, and the State is merely the judge deciding how to balance both citizen's claims. Our taxes pay for the Prosecutor to protect our rights against criminals, but either the loser or both parties end up paying the bill for court costs in a Civil suit.

There are also different standards of proof required in Criminal and Civil lawsuits. In general, Criminal cases must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" whereas Civil torts must be proven by a "preponderance of the evidence" (aka "just slightly more likely it happened than it didn't). On top of that, the evidence allowed in a Criminal case must meet a much more strict standard than what would be allowable in a Civil lawsuit.

There are also differences in the standards that must be met for a crime versus it's civil counterpart, i.e. Civil Negligence may be deemed as failing to follow the normal standards of society whereas Criminal Negligence may require a reckless disregard for normal standards of society.

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Answered on 10/08/13, 3:05 pm

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