United States v. Ursery
Criminal Cases V. Civil Cases
In a typical civil case, a person files suit against another person or group of persons, claiming that he or she has suffered some kind of harm or injury. The case is tried to determine if such injury has in fact occurred and to provide a legal remedy. Although the remedy sought may involve forcing the defendant to perform a certain act, or to cease certain activities, the usual remedy sought is a money settlement, and if found guilty the defendant is not imprisoned.
Criminal cases are initiated by the state against an individual or group for conduct deemed offensive to society, such as theft or murder. Defendants found guilty in criminal cases may be imprisoned as well as fined.
Since severe penalties, including death, may be imposed in criminal cases, criminal procedure is distinguished from civil procedure by the greater emphasis on the rights of the defendant. Further, the standard of proof is more stringent in criminal cases<-->the defendant must be proved guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," whereas in civil cases the defendant may be found guilty by a "preponderance of the evidence."
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