Many North Carolina residents do not understand the difference between civil cases and criminal cases, especially with respect to the burden of proof required to successfully process either case. One essential difference is the reasonable doubt standard versus the preponderance standard, which often results in civil plaintiffs winning their case. Criminal cases are adjudicated according to the reasonable doubt standard that requires the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant has indeed committed a crime of which they are charged even if it originates with an individual complaint.

Government involvement is also a primary difference, which is a dynamic that everyone in society knows too well in contemporary society. But there are other differences to consider between the two types of legal actions. One primary contrast is that civil litigation happens often between an individual plaintiff and a respondent party that must defend the claims of the instigating party. Remedies for civil litigation cases such as personal injury claims or business entity legal disputes typically are issued in financial awards after the plaintiff proves within a preponderance of the evidence that their assertions are valid.

However, that does not mean that criminal cases cannot arise from civil cases when a crime has been committed, or that government agencies cannot be involved in civil litigation matters. Criminal cases are leveled by government agencies on both state and federal court levels, and remedies for criminal cases include severe punishments such as incarceration, fines, and restitution to victims who may have a civil claim as well. Civil cases between private individuals or groups of individuals are based on breach of contract or negligence with respect to a duty of care owed to the plaintiff by the defendant, but criminal cases tend to focus on crimes against the state and general population.

It is also important to understand that civil and criminal matters are divided further by the attorneys that practice in each particular area of law. All individuals who are facing criminal charges that carry incarceration potential are required by law to have adequate criminal defense counsel, and those who need to file a legal claim against another party or defending a legal action are represented by civil litigation attorneys who focus their practice on civil legal matters.