How can a civil court force someone to pay a settlement when another court has already said they are not guilty? Guilty – But Not Guilty? It’s true that a person can win a criminal action, but then go on to lose the civil action. It’s because the two actions are brought by different parties and subject to different standards of proof.
The Difference Between Criminal Guilt and Civil Liability
The law distinguishes between criminal guilt and civil liability. In 1995, Simpson was found not guilty of murdering Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman, but then two years later was found liable to Goldman’s parents for causing Ron’s “wrongful death.”
The explanation is that a “Murder” is a crime, whereas “wrongful death” is a civil wrong, otherwise known as a “tort.” Generally speaking, crimes are established so that society can punish (and, one hopes, deter) morally culpable behavior. Torts, on the other hand, are created to provide compensation to the injured.
It just so happens that many acts – like killing somebody – are both crimes and torts. But this is not always the case. For example, a failed attempt to commit a murder constitutes a crime (attempted murder), but if the intended victim is not harmed by the attempt, there’s no tort – because there’s nothing to compensate. Conversely, there are plenty of torts that aren’t crimes. Defamation, for example, is the publication of words that damage a person’s reputation. You can be sued for it, but in most jurisdictions there is no corresponding crime.