Lake County attorneys who practice criminal defense law focus their practice on criminal rather than civil law. Many laypersons aren’t sure exactly what separates the two areas of law from each other, but there are fundamental differences. Criminal cases are initiated by the government and are meant to punish a defendant for an alleged criminal act he or she committed. Civil cases, on the other hand, typically have to do with disputes between organizations and/or individuals and often involve property rights or duties allegedly owed to each other.
In Lake County, attorneys who represent criminal defendants face off against prosecuting attorneys rather thanLake County attorneys representing crime victims. In fact, prosecutors can file charges against a defendant even in situations where the crime victim does not approve. On the flip side, prosecutors can also refuse to file criminal charges even when the victim wishes it were otherwise. In civil cases, the injured parties are the ones to initiate cases through a petition with the court.
As Lake County attorneys can advise their clients, defendants convicted in the criminal justice system usually face fines and/or actual jail time, whereas in civil cases, the clients of Lake County attorneys will not face potential incarceration. The usual punishments available in civil cases include paying money or giving up property.
The government is obligated to appoint defense attorneys (from Lake County or elsewhere) to represent indigent defendants who cannot afford to hire an attorney of their own. In civil cases, however, all parties must either hire their own attorneys or represent themselves. There are some exceptions to this rule, including juvenile cases or those involving civil contempt of court if an accused may face incarceration as a punishment.
Another big difference faced by attorneys in Lake County who practice criminal law as opposed to civil law involves the burden of proof that must be met in each type of case. The prosecutor in a criminal case has to prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, however, the plaintiff only needs to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” (higher than 50%) that the defendant is responsible–and liable–for the damages.
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