Civil and Criminal Law
Plaintiff v Defendant
• In civil cases the plaintiff–the party bringing a
lawsuit–claims to have suffered a loss and
usually seeks damages, an award of money
from the defendant.
• The defendant–the party being sued–argues
either that the loss did not occur or that the
defendant is not responsible for it.
Types of Civil Lawsuits
• Lawsuits involving a few thousand dollars or
less are often handled in a small claims court,
where people act as their own attorneys.
• Lawsuits may involve property disputes,
breach of contract, or divorce.
• A negligence suit is filed when a person has
been injured or killed or when property has
been destroyed because someone else has
been careless or negligent.
FIRST STEP IN A CIVIL CASE
GET A LAWYER
What Happens in Civil Cases
• A lawsuit starts when the plaintiff’s lawyer
files a complaint–a formal statement naming
the plaintiff and the defendant and describing
the nature of the suit.
• The court then sends the defendant a
summons, a document telling him of the suit
and requiring him to appear in court at a
The Defendant’s Response
• The defendant may respond by having his
lawyer file an “answer” to the complaint.
• The answer may admit to the charges or
• The complaint and answer together are
• During the discovery process before the
trial, both lawyers check facts and gather
evidence by questioning the other party
• The judge may call a pretrial conference with
• If the case is weak, the plaintiff may decide to
drop the suit.
• If it is strong, the defendant may offer a
settlement in which parties agree on the
amount of money the defendant will pay the
• Another way to resolve disputes before going
to trial is through mediation.
-A trained mediator does not decide the case,
but serves as a neutral party to help the two
sides reach an agreement.
• The two sides may choose arbitration.
-A professional arbitrator reviews and resolves
the dispute, and the arbitrator’s decision is
usually binding on both parties.
• Most civil cases are settled before trial for
• First, parties often prefer a negotiated
outcome to the uncertain outcome of a trial.
• Second, it may take years for a case to come
• Third, trials are expensive and time-
• If the parties do not settle, the case goes to
• A jury of 6 to 12 members or, more likely, a
judge will hear the case.
• First the plaintiff and then the defendant
• The plaintiff has to present enough
evidence to persuade the judge or jury
that the defendant is likely to be
responsible for the incident.
• This is a lower standard than prosecutors
must meet in criminal cases.
• The judge or jury considers all evidence and
decides on a verdict in favor of one of the
• If the plaintiff wins, a remedy is set. If the
defendant wins, the plaintiff gets nothing and
must pay court costs.
• If the losing side believes the judge made
errors or some injustice occurred, it may
appeal to a higher court.
• Cases involving large awards are often
• As a result, the winning plaintiff may wait
years for the money and may end up with
__ 1. a notice directing someone to appear in
court to answer a complaint or a charge
__ 2. a formal notice that a lawsuit is being
__ 3. a person or party filing a lawsuit
__ 4. an individual or group being sued or
charged with a crime
__ 5. Parties agree on an amount of money the
defendant will pay the plaintiff.
A. Plaintiff B. defendant
C. Settlement D. complaint
Types of Cases
• In criminal law cases the government charges
someone with a crime and is always the
• The accused person is the defendant.
Types of Cases
• A crime is an act that breaks a federal or state
criminal law and causes harm to people or
society in general.
• Each state has a set of written criminal laws,
called the penal code, that spells out
punishments for each crime.
Felonies v. Misdemeanors
• Misdemeanors are minor violations.
– Sentence of one year or less
• Felonies are serious crimes
– Murder, burglary, kidnapping, arson, rape.
– Imprisonment for a year or more
– Also lose certain civil rights and employment
Types of Felonies
• Crimes against people include murder,
manslaughter (accidental killing), assault
(physical injury or threat of injury), rape, and
• Crimes against property include larceny
(burglary, robbery, and theft), vandalism
(deliberate destruction of property), and fraud
(taking property by dishonest means.)
• Crimes such as unauthorized gambling and
illegal drug use are considered victimless
crimes, because there is no victim to bring a
Functions of Penalties
• Criminal penalties punish criminals and
protect society by keeping dangerous
criminals in prison.
• They serve as a warning to deter others from
committing the same crime.
• Criminal penalties are also intended to help
prepare lawbreakers to reenter society after
their prison terms end.
Penalties for Crimes
• In some cases, a parole board may decide to
grant a prisoner parole, or early release.
• In these cases, the person must report to a
parole officer until the sentence expires.
Penalties for Crimes
• Some states require mandatory sentencing, in
which judges must impose whatever sentence
the law directs.
– Opponents say the judge should be able to
impose harsher sentences than the law
• Indeterminate Sentence, a judge imposes a
minimum and maximum sentence.
• Suspended Sentence= sentence is given, but not
served at that time
• Home confinement= serve sentence at home
• Restitution=the defendant must pay back or make
• Monetary fine= Damages are paid
• Work Release= the defendant s allowed to work but
must return to prison at night and on weekends.
STEPS IN A CRIMINAL CASE?
• Officers make arrests if they have witnessed a
suspected crime, if a citizen has reported a crime,
or if a judge has issued an arrest warrant.
• At arrest, the officer informs the person of four
rights: the right to remain silent,
to have an attorney present during questioning,
to have a court-appointed attorney if the person
cannot afford one, and to stop answering
questions at any time.
After an Arrest
• The suspect is then booked, or
charged with a crime.
• Police take fingerprints and a photograph.
• The suspect may call a lawyer
at this time.
• In a few hours, the suspect appears in court.
• The prosecution must show the judge
probable cause–a good reason–to believe the
accused committed the crime.
• The judge then sends the accused back to jail,
sets bail, or releases him on his own
recognizance (without bail) with a promise to
appear in court when called.
Indictment by a GRAND JURY
• In federal and many state courts, a
grand jury decides whether to indict.
• In some states, a preliminary hearing
is used instead.
• In others, the prosecutor files an
“information” and the judge decides whether
• The defendant then appears for an
arraignment and must enter a plea.
1. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case
2. If the plea is guilty, the defendant stands
convicted and the judge determines the
3. A plea of no contest means that the
defendant does not admit guilt but will not
fight the charges.
• For a jury trial, both sides select
potential jurors from a large pool of residents
within the court’s jurisdiction.
• Both can reject some candidates.
• The lawyers for each side outline their case in
an opening statement.
• The prosecution and defense then present
their cases in turn.
• They call witnesses who give testimony–
answers given under oath.
• The other side may cross-examine witnesses
to try to discredit their testimony.
• In closing statements, both sides
highlight the evidence most favorable
to their case.
• The judge then “instructs” the jury on
the law that relates to the case.
• The jury goes off to discuss the case.
• They choose a foreman or forewoman
to lead the discussion.
• Deliberations are secret and have no time
• Finally, they vote.
The Jury Decides!
• A guilty verdict means the jury found
the evidence convincing “beyond a
• Most states require a unanimous vote.
• Acquittal is a vote of not guilty.
• If the jury cannot decide on a verdict,
the judge declares a hung jury and
rules a mistrial.
• The prosecution must then decide
whether to drop the charges or retry the
• If the verdict is guilty, the judge sets a court
date for sentencing.
• Sometimes the jury recommends a sentence.
• More often, the judge decides the sentence.
• Sentences often specify prison time, but may
include fines or community service work.
Verdict and Sentencing
• The defense often appeals a guilty verdict.
• The Fifth Amendment prohibition against
double jeopardy bars the prosecution from
appealing a not-guilty verdict.
__ 1. the statements a witness makes under
__ 2. to question a witness at a trial or a hearing
to check or discredit the testimony
__ 3. a vote of not guilty
__ 4. an act that breaks a law and causes harm
to people or society in general
__ 5. a hearing in which a suspect is charged and
pleads guilty or not guilty
A. Crime B. arraignment
C. Testimony D.cross-examine
Young People and the Courts
Cases of Juvenile Delinquency
• In most states, anyone under age 18 is
considered a juvenile–not yet legally an adult.
• Our system treats young people who commit
crimes–called juvenile delinquents–
somewhat differently from adults.
• Older juveniles charged with serious crimes,
though, may be tried as adults.
• Factors such as abuse, neglect, emotional
or mental problems, and poverty contribute to
• However, many children with these risk factors
never have trouble with the law, while
children from all backgrounds can become
Stages in the Juvenile System
• The main goal of juvenile courts is to try
to rehabilitate, or correct a person’s
behavior, rather than punish.
• Cases begin with arrest or petitions to the courts
filed by school administrators, store managers, or
others. Parents may also petition.
• This means that children can be put into the
juvenile justice system without having been
accused of a crime.
Stages in the Juvenile Justice system
• Before reforms in the late 1800s, juvenile
offenders received the same sentences and
were sent to the same prisons as adults.
• Today, juvenile courts try to do whatever is
best for the young person.
Two types of cases: Neglect and
• In cases of neglect or abuse by caregivers, a
court may place youths in foster homes.
• Delinquency cases involve crimes.
• Other cases involve actions that are
considered illegal only for juveniles,
such as running away or curfew violation.
What happens if I get arrested?
• When a juvenile is arrested, police notify the
parents or caregivers.
• The child may be sent home or placed in
juvenile detention until time to appear in
Diversion or Detention?
• In nonviolent cases, juveniles may be
diverted away from court and placed into
special programs, such as counseling, job
training, or drug treatment.
• A judge may hold a detention hearing to
determine whether the juveniles might
be dangerous to themselves or others.
• If so, they may remain confined.
• The trial is less formal than in adult court.
• Only the parties involved may attend.
• Both sides call and cross-examine witnesses.
• There is no jury.
• The judge decides whether the young person
is delinquent or nondelinquent.
• The system tries to protect juveniles by
keeping their identities and criminal records
– No fingerprints are taker or photographs
• In some cases, records may be erased when
the offender becomes an adult.
• Some states are experimenting with peer
juries for the sentencing stage, if the
• If a juvenile has been found delinquent, the
court holds a hearing to decide the
disposition, or sentencing.
• Delinquents may be sent home with a stern
lecture or placed in a special training school,
reformatory, treatment center, or teen shelter.
• If the young people attend school and obey
their caregivers during the probationary
period, the charges will be removed from
• Juveniles who were neglected may become
wards of the court until they are adults.
• Judges may place juveniles with serious
mental or emotional problems in a hospital or
In re Gault
• Gerald Gault, age 15, had been sentenced to
six years in a reformatory for making indecent
telephone calls to a neighbor.
• His parents were not informed of his arrest.
• He had no attorney present and the neighbor
was never questioned.
In re Gault
• The Supreme Court overturned the
ruling in the 1967 case In re Gault
and established rules for juvenile criminal
• Juveniles have the right to counsel, the right
to confront witnesses, and the right not to be
forced to incriminate themselves.
__ 1.a person not yet legally an adult
__ 2.to correct a person’s behavior
__ 3.a child or teenager who commits a
serious crime or repeatedly breaks the
B. juvenile delinquent
Suits of Equity
• Equity is a system of rules by which disputes
are resolved on the grounds of fairness.
• People may file a suit in equity to seek fair
treatment in a situation in which no law exists
to decide the matter.
• An equity court may stop a wrong before it
occurs. Ex. Highway through park
Suits of Equity
• A judge decides suits in equity.
• The judge may issue an injunction,
or court order commanding a person
or group to stop a certain action.