The Differences between Criminal and Civil Offenses in Maryland

How the Law Treats Criminal and Non-Criminal Acts

The-Differences-between-Criminal-and-Civil-Offenses-in-Maryland-imgIn Maryland, as in all states, there are generally two sides to the legal process: the criminal laws and processes, and the civil law. A single incident can give rise to both criminal proceedings and civil proceedings. For example, if you are driving under the influence of alcohol and strike another vehicle, you may be charged with a DUI/DWI, and you may also be sued for damages in a personal injury lawsuit.

What Are the Fundamental Differences between Criminal and Civil Proceedings?

There are a number of ways that the criminal process operates differently from the civil process:

  • The parties to the legal action—In a criminal prosecution, the party initiating the action is always the government—it may be state, local or federal. In a civil action, the parties may be governmental bodies, but are typically private citizens or businesses.
  • The burden of proof—In a criminal case, you must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt (typically considered to be with about 90% certainty). In a civil matter, it’s only by the weight of the evidence (more likely than not).
  • The penalties—In a criminal matter, you can be asked to make restitution, but the typical sanctions are incarceration or fines, which are payable to the state. In a civil matter, one party must typically compensate the other party, though there are very limited circumstances where you can compel performance.
  • The legal basis—Criminal prosecutions are based on violation of a statute (a written law enacted by a legislative body). Civil actions are typically based on the common law, which is set forth in legal opinions issued by judges.

Experienced Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney Jonathan Scott Smith has fought for the rights of criminal defendants in Maryland for more than 30 years. 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 Criminal 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