From Criminal to Civil Court: Finding Recourse

The Law and You

This segment of The Law and You explains the difference between criminal and civil justice systems, with examples of common cases in each system and their typical outcomes.


JOEL: This is Joel Block for The Law and You with Eugene attorney Don Corson. Don, our justice system is divided into two parts: criminal and civil. Can you give us a 30-second explanation?

DON: Joel, most TV legal shows feature the criminal justice system, where a crime was committed — theft, murder, drug dealing — and the government prosecutor tries to punish a criminal. The victim is not a party to the case. In contrast, in a civil case, the injured survivor or a victim’s family brings a case against someone who has wrongfully hurt them. The purpose is to help the survivors and promote safety. We have handled many civil cases that began as a criminal case. The most common are cases are against drunk drivers who are first prosecuted by the DA. Then, we seek fair compensation for the survivors and sometimes are able to prevent bars from serving minors or visibly intoxicated people.

JOEL: Thanks, Don. Learn more about the criminal and civil justice systems with case examples at The Law and You is part of Corson & Johnson’s work to make communities safer.

The Corson & Johnson Law Firm, a Eugene, Oregon personal injury trial law firm, produces and distributes The Law and You as a continuing public service to help families and consumers answer questions about our legal system and how it works for them. If you have suggestions for legal questions or topics you would like addressed by The Law and You, please contact us.