The Differences between a Criminal Prosecution and a Civil Lawsuit

The Differences between a Criminal Prosecution and a Civil LawsuitThere are distinct differences between prosecution for a criminal offense and the pursuit of a legal remedy through a civil proceeding:

  • Burden of proof—In a criminal prosecution, the jury must have no reasonable doubt as to your guilt. In a civil proceeding, they only need to conclude that your version of the facts is more believable than your opponent’s story.
  • The sanctions/penalties—In a criminal proceeding, you can face incarceration, fines (payable to the state), restitution (payable to the victim), community service, probation and even, in some jurisdictions, the death penalty. In a civil lawsuit, the remedy is customarily a monetary damage award, though there are limited situations where a court may compel a party to do something.
  • The source of the law—As a general rule, crimes are established by statute, a written law enacted by a legislative body. Though some civil wrongs are also statutory, most are derived from the common law, written down in opinions of judges in prior cases.
  • The parties—In a criminal prosecution, one of the parties is always the government, acting on behalf of the people. In a civil matter, the parties are usually private citizens or companies, though the government may be a party to a civil lawsuit.

Proven Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer

Attorney Jonathan Scott Smith has protected the rights of criminal defendants in Maryland for more than 30 years, including people charged with misdemeanors or felonies. SuperLawyers has named him one of the top 100 lawyers in Maryland and The American Lawyer Magazine has also cited him as a Top-Rated Lawyer.

Attorney Smith has been AV-rated (the highest possible) by his colleagues in the legal profession under Martindale-Hubbell’s Peer Review Rating System for more than three decades. He has also received Martindale-Hubbell’s prized Client Distinction Award, an accolade earned by less than 4% of all attorneys nationwide. He carries a 10.0 (Superb rating) as a trial lawyer from AVVO and has also earned AVVO’s Client’s Choice Award, with an average client review of 5 stars.

A highly-regarded trial attorney, Jonathan has an extensive knowledge and understanding of Maryland criminal law and procedure. He knows how to effectively gather and preserve evidence and will take all necessary measures to ensure that law enforcement officers did not violate your constitutional rights.

Contact a Proven Maryland Violent Crimes Defense Lawyer

At the law offices of Jonathan Scott Smith, we aggressively advocate for criminal defendants throughout the greater Baltimore area and across the state of Maryland. Contact us online or call 410-740-0101 to arrange a meeting. We handle cases throughout Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Frederick County, Howard County, Baltimore County, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County in Maryland.


  • Jonathan Scott Smith 10490 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 200 ,Columbia, MD 21044-4960

  • Call for consultation 410-740-0101