What’s the difference between Civil and Criminal Justice? | Crime Victims in Arizona

Crime Victims in Arizona

What’s the difference between Civil and Criminal Justice? | Crime Victims in Arizona

Civil and criminal cases differ. A civil case involves seeking a monetary reward for the victim of wrongdoing.  In contrast, criminal cases are “crimes against society” and may result in prison time for the perpetrator of the crime. The easiest way to understand the difference between the two? Civil cases are filed by individual victims and criminal cases are brought by governments. Civil cases seek financial accountability for wrongdoing. Criminal cases typically seek punishment.

If you are a victim, justice can be achieved through both venues. In a criminal case, crime victims who suffer economic loss are entitled to restitution orders paid directly by the  offender.  The offender is held accountable directly to the victim for economic losses such as lost wages, medical expenses, counseling costs and other expenses incurred as a direct result of the crime. But restitution in a criminal case does NOT include damage for pain and suffering, punitive damages or consequential damages.  In contrast, in a civil case, perpetrator may be accountable to the victim  for physical, economic, emotional damages and punitive damages.

In a criminal case, justice can be achieved by providing input to the prosecutor about charging decision, plea offers and giving impact statements at sentencing. You have constitutional rights as victims in the State of Arizona. Be sure to exercise those rights. In a civil case, you have the right to seek accountability for the wrongdoer’s conduct by seeking compensation.

If you are a victim of a criminal case, depending on the crime, you may consider seeking restitution for your economic losses and a civil remedy for your general damages. Some cases of where victims may consider seeking  both civil remedies and criminal restitution orders include:

  • Shootings or Weapons Offenses
  • Theft
  • Identity Theft
  • Arson
  • Assault or Aggravated Assault
  • Vehicular crimes Including Manslaughter, Drunk Driving and Reckless Driving
  • Forgery, Fraud or Embezzlement
  • Commercial and Business Fraud


If you are a victim and need assistance, the Udelman Law Firm or  the Arizona Crime Victim Rights Law Group, may be able to work with you to seek restitution for your economic losses or other civil remedies if available–at no cost to you. While civil lawsuits can’t fill the void left by a lost loved one, financial accountability can help you rebuild. Contact us today.

*The information in this blog is for general information purposes only. This blog post should not be taken to constitute a formal recommendation or professional legal advice. We exclude all representations, warranties, legal liability or responsibility relating to its content.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (7/11/2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/bethcortez-neavel/ (Flickr)