Differences between Civil and Criminal Trials

  Criminal Trial Civil Trial
The Parties Involved: The government (federal, state, or local) and an alleged law-breaker Private individuals or groups
At issue: Court must determine whether one party has violated a statute that prohibits some type of activity; case deals with offenses against society as a whole Court must determine whether one party has caused harm to another party; case deals with rights and duties between individuals
Type of Wrongdoing: Transgression against society Harm to private person or group
Penalty or Remedy: Punishment (fine, imprisonment, deterrence, rehabilitation, etc.) Compensation for damages or loss
Burden of Proof: That the person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt That a preponderance of evidence supports the claim

View Source
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, http://www.uscourts.gov/outreach/lessonplans/civil.pdf