The law is intimidating and confusing to most normal people (but not me, because I’m exceedingly brilliant). Because I am mostly an awesome guy, I like to help others. Because I love the law, I want you fine people to be as familiar with and comfortable with it as possible. That’s a big part of the reason why I maintain this website and try to relay as much information about the law as I can through anecdotes and current events.
You might want to have a basic understanding of civil litigation in Georgia, so I will cover the basics of it today. I would like you to feel less intimidated by the law and any civil cases you may be presented with in the future. You may even be facing one now, and that’s how you found this Georgia law blog.
Other than that, though, they’re systems of justice addressing totally different parts of our society. Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys work in a specific subset of law governed by Georgia workers’ compensation law. There’s an administrative law board rather than jury trials; case law and rules of evidence are different than for criminal law.
Criminal law is a type of law whose basic function is to decide between what are and are not criminal actions. It deals with things as seemingly small as a driving citation and things as large as murder, as well as every shade of law-breaking in between. The Plaintiff (the person or people bringing about the lawsuit) in the case will always be a government entity; the sole aim of the case is to figure out the guilt or innocence of a Defendant (the person the lawsuit is against) and an appropriate punishment if they are found guilty as charged. So then: Criminal law is pretty much solely about crime and punishment.
Okay, in every case the government –at any level: Federal, State, City, etc.– as the Plaintiff files suit against an individual or group. This individual or group is the Defendant in the case, and is then charged with the crime. They then have the option of hiring a criminal defense lawyer, having a criminal defense lawyer appointed by the court if they can’t afford an attorney on their own, or representing themselves.
The Plaintiff has the burden of proof. It’s the government’s job, then, to bring evidence in the form of testimony, photos, or documents to trial in order to convince a jury of the Defendant’s guilt. Burden of proof in a criminal case, incidentally, is much higher than in a civil case. Enough evidence must be brought to prove to that jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant is responsible for the crime they are accused of. If you were to represent this
in percentages, the jury would have to be something like ninety percent (!) convinced of a Defendant’s guilt.
I hope I’ve brought about a basic understanding and comfortableness about the differences between criminal and civil proceedings for you thus far. I don’t want to throw too much information to you all at once, so in my next post, I’ll discuss criminal law procedure further.