Key Differences Between U.S. Criminal & Civil Law

A simple explanation of the major differences between criminal law and civil law in the U.S. legal system. This map is designed for students and those unfamiliar with the U.S. legal system.

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Key Differences Between U.S. Criminal & Civil Law by Mind Map: Key Differences Between U.S. Criminal & Civil Law

1. Criminal

1.1. Injury is to the public

1.2. Government prosecutes case for "the People"

1.3. Court appoints counsel for a defendant, if defendant cannot afford one

1.4. Burden of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt"

1.4.1. Highest burden of proof in the law

1.4.2. Does not require absolute certainty

1.4.3. No logical explanation other than the defendant committed the crime

1.5. Once found guilty, defendants are "convicted"

1.5.1. Can result in loss of liberty

1.5.2. Can result in loss of certain rights (e.g., right to vote)

1.5.3. Can also be monetary penalties; e.g., restitution, fines

2. Civil

2.1. An injury to private party

2.2. A "plaintiff" sues a "defendant"

2.3. Parties must provide their own attorneys or represent themselves

2.4. Burden of proof is "preponderance of the evidence"

2.4.1. Lowest standard of proof in the law

2.4.2. Generally means proof that a fact is simply "more likely than not" true

2.4.3. Limited exception: "Clear and convincing evidence" standard - evidence must be weightier, substantially likely to be true

2.5. Defendant is either "liable" or "not liable" for the Plaintiff's "damages"

2.5.1. Monetary

2.5.2. Nonmonetary