What is the Difference Between Criminal Case & Civil Lawsuit for Maryland Crime Victims?
The State of Maryland provides several legal options to crime victims who suffer harm or injury as a result of a criminal act. Two of the most common options in these situations are criminal cases and civil lawsuits. In both approaches, the criminal defendant can face liability in court for their wrongful actions. Though there are distinct differences between these two approaches.
In a criminal case, the objective is to hold the defendant responsible for violating Maryland state law. In these cases, the state manages and prosecutes the entire process, wielding the power to decide questions about strategy, witnesses, and other relevant considerations. Crime victims do not have much, if any, control over how the state approaches a criminal case.
That being said, crime victims do have many rights throughout this process. For example, crime victims can receive notice of important milestones in the case, such as trial, sentencing, and parole. At many occasions, crime victims have the right to make statements during the criminal case.
In terms of the burden of proof, criminal cases feature the highest standard — “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In other words, a criminal defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty. If there is any doubt — reasonably established with proper evidence — then the criminal case will fail.
When there is a guilty verdict, the punishment typically centers on confinement in jail or prison and criminal fines. Though the state courts can order the defendant to pay restitution, compensating crime victims for economic damages such as lost wages or medical bills. It is not possible for the state courts to order restitution for non-economic damage such as emotional pain and suffering.
In a civil lawsuit, the objective is to hold the defendant responsible to the victim for any harm or injury caused. In these lawsuits, the crime victim controls the process, wielding the power to make all relevant decisions. For example, civil lawsuits allow the victim to decide whether to proceed to trial or accept a settlement offer. Additionally, victims can file a civil lawsuit, even if the defendant secures a not guilty verdict in the criminal case.
The burden of proof in civil lawsuits is a slightly lower standard — either “preponderance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence.” These standards require the victim to prove a likelihood that the defendant is responsible. The victim and the defendant have equal footing in a civil case. Therefore, the judge or jury must decide whether the defendant is most likely at fault.
If the judge or jury determines that the defendant is liable for the harm or injury caused, the victim can secure financial compensation in the form of damages. Unlike criminal cases, civil lawsuits allow the victim to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Though Maryland state law does impose a limit on the amount of non-economic damages available to the victim.
Let Us Help You Today
If you suffered harm or injury as a victim of crime in Maryland, it can be significantly beneficial to contact a seasoned personal injury lawyer. The Baltimore crime victims lawyers at Iamele & Iamele, LLP have a thorough understanding of the legal options available to crime victims. If you need legal help, contact us today for a free initial consultation.