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Civil and Criminal Law Our legal system recognizes two different kinds of cases--civil and criminal A civil case is one in which a person who feels he has been wronged may bring legal action to protect his own interest or to collect monetary damages from the person who has wronged him or her The private party whose rights have been violated the plaintiff initiates the case The person who is sued in a civil case is known as the defendant or the respondent It is up to the plaintiff to prove his or her case with stronger evidence than the defendant has to where the judge or jury must believe that the plaintiff has proven his case by a preponderance of the evidence Any person may be required to testify in court including the defendant Everyone has the right to hire and appear with his own attorney or to proceed without an attorney by representing themselves If the plaintiff proves his case by a preponderance of the evidence the judge or jury will award the plaintiff monetary damages in the form of payments or a lump sum A criminal case on the other hand is one in which the state or federal government begins the action in the name of its citizens The plaintiff may be the state of North Carolina or the United States of America The case is prosecuted that is it is put into action and the plaintiff is represented in court by a prosecutor representing the state or federal government The accused or the defendant is charged with a crime against society--a violation of the law regulating our conduct such as murder In a criminal case the defendant is presumed innocent until found guilty by a judge or jury The burden of proof to convict in a criminal case is much more stringent that in a civil case The prosecutor must make his case to where the judge or jury
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