What Is a Criminal Lawsuit?

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  • Written By: C. Daw
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 February 2020
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A criminal lawsuit is any process in a court of law that seeks legal remedy for illegal actions committed against another party. The fundamental difference between criminal lawsuits and civil lawsuits is that with criminal suits, punishment or punitive measures are sought after, rather than just financial reimbursements. The punishments in criminal law come in three forms; incarceration, fines, or the death sentence, depending on the gravity of the crime and jurisdiction. Criminal suits can be classified in two distinct classifications; one are misdemeanors that come with small fines or a mild jail sentence of up to one year, and felonies that have sentences of more than one year and sometimes the death sentence will be given to the offender.

Due to the risks involved in a criminal litigation, the defendant is encouraged to seek the services of an experienced lawyer. A criminal suit that is initially perceived as a misdemeanor, or a petty crime, may be converted to a felony based on investigations and the findings of the criminal prosecution team. The lawyer’s arguments act as a cushion from stringent sentences, fines, or other punishments if the defendant is found guilty; lawyers have a great knowledge of the law from their schooling and practice, and know how to use the law to achieve ‘justice’.


There are many different ways that a criminal lawsuit can be settled. The obvious one is through the declaration of the defendant as guilty or not guilty by a jury and sentenced or freed by a judge. The second way to settle some of the criminal lawsuits is through an out-of-court settlement where the plaintiff and the defendant engage in negotiations, face to face, or through their lawyers. This plea bargain depends mostly on the plaintiffs will to settle lest it goes to court.

Thirdly, the lawyers and the criminal prosecution team can come into an agreement, or free bargain. In this case, the defendant is given the option of a lesser charge and sentencing rather than going through the criminal lawsuit battle. During this process, negotiations and an agreement is reached and given to the judge, along with a recommended sentence. The lesser charge is given to the defendant who has accepted the plea bargain, which in the long term saves the courts time and money. A criminal lawsuit is very expensive in terms of allowances paid to the jury, the witness’s expenses, evidence production, and the cost of hiring the lawyers.

In any criminal lawsuit, the defendant is accorded some rights by the constitution, which if abused, will result in a mistrial or entire dismissal of the charges. The defendant has the right to an attorney; personal or one provided by the government, unless they waive this right, which leads to them representing themselves or asking for judgment right away. The defendant is protected from interrogation without the lawyer’s presence; any statements gained through duress will jeopardize the case, and they are protected from any physical abuse during an interrogation. There are many other rights that safeguard justice presentation, trial, judgment and sentencing to eliminate unjust rulings and prevent bias on many different levels.


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