Texas Law: Crimes vs. Torts


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Laws are created to help keep society safer as a whole and to help protect individuals from harm. In most instances, when someone commits a crime, it leads to a criminal charge. When the action in question, however, leads to someone else being hurt but does not rise to the level of a criminal act, the accused can face allegations of negligence, which is known as a tort, which is a civil wrong. In addition, in some cases, an action may be both a criminal act and a tort against the victim. Understanding the distinction can help you better understand the charges you are facing.

Crime or Tort?

If you are charged with a crime, you will face criminal charges that are levied by the government in court. If you are facing a civil tort, you are being sued in civil court by the injured party for financial compensation. The fact is, however, that many accidents can result in both criminal charges and civil liability. Consider the following examples:

  • If you cause a car accident that leaves someone else injured, you will likely face civil charges.
  • If you are alleged to have sold illegal drugs, you will likely face criminal charges.
  • If your negligence causes a car accident that leaves someone else dead, you could face both civil charges in the form of a wrongful death case and criminal charges – if you are alleged to have been criminally negligent. It is important to point out, however, that not every driver whose negligence leads to a fatal accident faces criminal charges.

Resulting Penalties

In a tort, if the plaintiff (the injured party) who brings the claim against the defendant (the person alleged to have wronged the plaintiff) is successful in his or her case, the defendant must pay him or her monetary damages in the amount determined by the jury. In a criminal case, however, the government brings the charge against the alleged wrongdoer (the defendant), and if the defendant is convicted in court, he or she could face time behind bars, significant fines, and/or another form of punishment.

The Burden of Proof

One of the primary distinctions between cases that are criminal and cases that are civil is the burden of proof required. In civil cases, the burden of proof – the level it must reach – is generally a preponderance of the evidence, which means there’s more evidence in support of the charge than there is against it. This standard is less difficult to reach than the level of beyond a reasonable doubt, which is necessary to convict in criminal cases.

Work Closely with an Experienced Lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a formidable criminal defense lawyer who is committed to building your strongest defense and to aggressively advocating for your case’s best possible outcome. Your case is important, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.

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