Eli5 – How can someone be proven not guilty of murder in criminal court but still sued in civil court?


Eli5 – How can someone be proven not guilty of murder in criminal court but still sued in civil court?

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22 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

They are two entirely different systems of justice.

Criminal court is a component of government. It is a process that is invoked by law enforcement. Its purpose is to determine if someone is *guilty of a performing a criminal act* and if so, impose fines, incarceration, or other negative responses that are intended to increase public safety, deter the criminal from re-offending, and deter others from doing what the criminal did.

Civil court is a process that can be started by any private citizen by filing a law suit. *There may or may not be an actual and verified crime involved.* Its purpose is to seek compensation or prevent further damage from someone who supposedly has ‘unfairly treated’ you (e.g. sold and cheapened your own artistic works, or slandered your god name) or had a negative impact on your quality of life.

Because they’re different, they have different criteria for the other side “winning” a court action against you. For example, you can get off on a technicality in criminal court where someone screws up an important procedural component or there’s inconsistencies in critical evidence. Or it turns out the wrong charge was levied against you, say murder when it was manslaughter.

But escaping that conviction doesn’t mean there was zero damage caused by your act. Families could lose their source of income if you were clearly involved in the loss of their breadwinner’s life, and that family would experience the pain and stress of their death, even though criminal court didn’t convict you. The bars for success are different because the system is different.

Anonymous 0 Comments

In criminal court, it has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you’re guilty – that is, there’s no way a sane person would think you didn’t do it.

Civil court, standard for a judgement is lower. You can get a ruling if you can only show the guy PROBABLY did it.

EDIT: also, there’s a big difference between sued & convicted. As long as there’s some element of logic to your case ( your suit against Elon Musk for selling your kidney to martians is never going to see the inside of a courtroom), you can drag anyone you want into civil court – doesn’t mean you’re going to win, though

Anonymous 0 Comments

They’re not proven “not guilty,” they’re not “proven guilty.”

Civil court is about demonstrating damages, not assessing whether laws were broken.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Burden of proof basically.

To be convicted of a crime you are supposed to be proven guilty. Think of it as 100%.

While civil court can be any amount of guilt or negligence. So if you did anything unreasonable in the process of killing someone you can be sued for wrongful death and be found partially at fault.

Anonymous 0 Comments

In an engineering law class I took in 2019-2020, it was described to us as:

* in a criminal case, the jury needs to think there’s a 99%+ chance you’re guilty to convict you
* in a civil case, the jury only needs to think there’s a 51% chance you’re guilty to convict you

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because criminal court requires more/better evidence.

In criminal court you have to prove someone is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” which means like 95% sure they did it.

In civil court you have to show “preponderance of the evidence”, which means at least 51% he is liable.

As you can see there is a lot of room between these 2.

Some crimes also have other requirements in criminal court which may not be relevant to the civil liability.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The standards in criminal court are different in civil court. A murder conviction in criminal court requires that guilt must beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil wrongful death suit, the person must be responsible, completely or partially, and more likely than not.

It’s quite possible that a jury can find that they aren’t 100% sure the person committed murder, but another jury determine that they were more likely than not at least partly responsible.

Anonymous 0 Comments

In court, one side has the “burden of proof,” which means their side is required to prove their case to the jury in order to win. If they can’t prove their case, they lose.

In a criminal case, the prosecutor has the burden of proof—if the prosecutor can’t prove the case, the defendant can’t be found guilty. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is high because somebody could go to jail. It’s called “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In a civil case, the plaintiff’s burden of proof is lower because nobody can be sent to jail. The burden of proof is “preponderance of the evidence.” The civil lawyer might be able to reach the lower burden of proof, even if the criminal prosecutor couldn’t reach the higher burden.

American football analogy: a criminal case requires you to score a touchdown for a conviction, but a civil case just requires you to get past your 50 yard line for a win.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It happens all the time. OJ Simpson was found not guilty in his famous criminal trial. The jury found there was no substantial evidence to prove he did commit the murder.

Two years after the family of Ron Goldman sued Simpson in the civil case and he was found liable for the wrongful death. The jurors found out that it is more likely than not that he did cause Ron’s death. His family got awarded million of dollars in compensation.

The standard for proving if someone is guilty/ liable differs between criminal and civil court. The reason is that government has an enormous powers and ability. When they convict someone it needs to be based on undisputed evidence, because the potential outcome can be death/ life without the possibility of the parole. In civil court stakes are much lower so it is decided on 50-50 (preponderance of the evidence), i.e something is more likely than not.

Anonymous 0 Comments

You don’t prove someone not guilty. Not guilty is the default, everyone is presumed innocent. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. If they fail to do so, a jury must find the person not guilty.

Being found not guilty doesn’t mean the person didn’t commit the crime, it means that the prosecution didn’t put forward a strong enough case against the accused to meet the legal standard for being found guilty.

Civil court has a significantly weaker standard for culpability so its way easier to get a judgement against someone in civil court than it is to prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court.

Just ask O.J. Simpson