Criminal vs. Civil Cases

There’s little in terms of “black and white” thinking that evokes more controversy than the issue of “right and wrong.”  It is an over-simplified explanation of how society is governed to say that the government punishes those who do “wrong.”  Many times, wrongdoings do not fall under the jurisdiction of the government to implement punishment.  It is for this reason that civil courts are a paramount keystone in the structural integrity of this country.  What is not hashed out in criminal courts is dealt with in civil courts, with rulings either handed down by a judge or by a jury.

Sometimes wrongdoings—torts—are committed in clear violation of state and/or federal regulations.  For example, driving recklessly is punishable by a citation, fine or jail time in extreme cases.  However, if reckless driving results in a car crash which injures someone, the wrongdoer—the tortfeasor—will normally not face his or her victim in a criminal court.  In any event, a civil suit will be filed on behalf of the injured party to demand compensation for the injuries inflicted on the plaintiff by the tortfeasor.  In more severe cases, such as crashes involved with drunk drivers, you can be sure that the drunk drivers who caused the crash will face prosecutors in criminal court in addition to facing their victims in civil court.  The rules that govern which courts deal with which infractions are very complicated.  Sometimes, if the criminal prosecution of an individual is unsuccessful for whatever reason, the tortfeasor may face his or her punishment as a result of a civil suit.  These suits and trials can be hard-fought and involve nasty litigation.  As they say, there’s nothing “civil” about a civil suit.

There have been many instances in American legal history where an individual has escaped the wrath of a criminal court only to be punished later by the result of a civil suit.  Michael Jackson is one such famous example.  Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges in a criminal court in 2005.  However, he faced “punishment” a decade earlier when he paid $20 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought against him by the family of a boy claiming to have been sexually molested by Jackson.

Another famous face, both in the entertainment world and the legal world, is that of O.J. Simpson.  In 1995, after arguably the most fantastical legal spectacle to date, and to the astonishment of populations all over the world, O.J. Simpson was acquitted on the charges relating to the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.  But then, two years later, O.J. was taken to court in a civil suit brought by the families of the murdered.  In the civil trial, the jury voted unanimously that O.J. was liable for the murders, and the damages were assessed at $8.5 million.

The success of the United States has always hinged upon balance.  The constitution first described the importance of a system of checks and balances over 220 years ago.  The seal of the president illustrates an eagle with one claw gripped around a collection of arrows and the other claw holding an olive branch.  Balance is a key part of maintaining order and society, and while criminal courts do a tremendous job of ensuring as much, it is up to the civil courts to lie up all of the loose ends.  Take advantage of your right as an American and use the civil courts to ensure justice that the criminal courts might not be able to deliver.

Let us assist you in protecting your legal rights.  If you have been harmed by the wrongdoing of another, please call the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg at 561-266-9191 or email us at

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