Infographic: The Differences Between Civil and Criminal Law

March 13, 2014

When an individual is accused of molesting a child, he will normally face criminal charges. These charges are brought against the accused by the government.

At Estey & Bomberger we represent victims of childhood molestation in civil law suits. The distinction between civil and criminal law is crucial. The graphic below clearly explains the key differences between civil and criminal law.

For a more detailed explanation of civil and criminal law as it relates specifically to child molestation, please click here.

If you think your child may be a victim of molestation, please click here to view a list of resources.

Civil v. Criminal Charges - Child Molestation

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Civil law and criminal law are two broad and separate entities of law with separate sets of laws and punishments.

Civil cases usually involve private disputes between persons or organizations. Criminal cases involve an action that is considered to be harmful to society as a whole. Below is a comparison of the key differences between civil and criminal cases.

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Criminal law is the body of law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of injuries to the public.

Civil law deals with the disputes between individuals, organizations, or between the two, in which compensation is awarded to the victim.

Filed By:

Criminal = The Government
Civil = Private Party


Criminal = To maintain the stability of the state and society by punishing offenders and deterring them and others from offending.
Civil = To deal with the disputes between individuals, organizations, or between the two, in which compensation is awarded to the victim.


Criminal = Defendant is convicted if guilty and acquitted if not guilty. The jury decide this
Civil = Defendant can be found liable or not liable. The judge decides this.

Standard of Proof:

Criminal = Burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Civil = burden of proof is preponderant of the evidence.

Burden of Proof:

Criminal = “Innocent until proven guilty”: The prosecution must prove defendant guilty.
Civil = Claimant must give proof however, the burden may shift to the defendant in situations of Res Ipsa Loquitur (The thing speaks for itself).
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Type of Punishment:

Criminal = custodial imprisonment or non-custodial punishment
Civil = compensation(usually financial) for injuries or damages

Criminal = Theft, assault, robbery, trafficking in controlled substances, murder, etc.
Civil = Landlord/tenant disputes, divorce proceedings, child custody proceedings, property disputes, personal injury, etc.


Criminal = Only the defendant may appeal a court’s verdict. The prosecution is not allowed to appeal.
Civil = Either party (claimant or defendant) can appeal a court’s decision.

Jury Opinion:

Criminal = the jury must agree unanimously before a defendant is convicted.
Civil = the opinion of the jury may not have to be unanimous. Laws vary by state and country.

Commencement of Proceedings:

Criminal = By way of pleadings, Representatives of the state, Prosecutor, Attorney General.
Civil = State/People/Prosecution by summons or indictment