Cok Kinzler PLLP

The difference between civil and criminal

There is a distinct difference between civil and criminal cases in Montana courts. Understanding how these two procedures are related and separate could help anyone involved or interested in the criminal justice process.

There are different steps, different people involved, and usually a different degree of evidence necessary in civil and criminal cases. Please continue to read for a brief discussion of these and an example based on a local event.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported on a multi-car crash which could provide insight into the difference between civil and criminal law. A man allegedly involved in the incident was arrested and held on bail, one of the first steps in the criminal justice process. Police officers investigated the scene and took testimony from the people involved.

These initial steps may eventually result in consequences for the Bozeman man, depending on the disposition of his case. These consequences could include jail time, fines, and so on.

As mentioned on FindLaw, this is a separate process from the civil personal injury cases the victims might pursue in order to recover compensation for their injuries. Although the two cases could be related — private claimants could potentially use the same police reports from criminal proceedings, for example — the State of Montana would only be marginally involved in the civil negotiations and trial. 

The FindLaw resource also says that, in most cases, it is the injured person's responsibility to bring civil cases. In criminal procedures, the state brings the charges. Generally speaking, the purpose of a personal injury case would be to make an injured person whole, whereas the criminal case would be intended to define punishment and reform measures for those who are found to have harmed society in some way.

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