The judicial system in the United States divides all cases into one of two distinct categories: civil or criminal. However, sometimes a case will end up in both the criminal and the civil court systems. This normally occurs when a defendant’s illegal actions result in either physical injury or property damage to another person. In these cases, the jurisdiction in which the alleged crime occurred is entitled to prosecute the defendant under the criminal laws of the state. In addition, anyone injured by the defendant’s allegedly negligent or intentional actions is also entitled to bring a lawsuit seeking monetary damages.
While the same set of actions may end up bringing a defendant to court in both civil and criminal courts, the burdens of proof in each system are different. In a criminal trial, a judge or jury must find the defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, in civil cases, a judge or jury must determine liability only by a “preponderance of the evidence.” These terms, while difficult to assign an exact meaning to, represent a big difference in what is required to prove a case under each system.
Man Hits Bicyclist and Then Flees the Scene
A recent example of a situation that may land a defendant in both civil and criminal courts is a hit-and-run accident that occurred in Miami Beach earlier this month. According to one local news source, the accident occurred shortly after a man allegedly hijacked a car in the area of Washington Avenue and First Street.