Can a Plaintiff Be Found Guilty?

No, plaintiffs in civil and criminal cases cannot be found guilty.

In a civil case, plaintiffs can be found negligent, liable, or in the wrong in other ways.

But “guilt” is a special legal term that generally does not apply to plaintiffs in any case.

In the article that follows, we’ll explain.

Can a Plaintiff Be Found Guilty?(EXPLAINED)


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Guilty vs Not-Guilty In A Criminal Case

In general, in the United States criminal justice system, “guilty” and “not-guilty” are terms that are reserved from criminal cases.

A defendant in a criminal case can enter a plea of guilty or not-guilty.

They can be found guilty, or not-guilty, by a judge or a jury.

Establishing a person’s guilt (or not-guilt) triggers other applicable statutes leading the the defendant’s release from the case, or the defendant’s punishment in the form of probation, fines, confinement, community services, and more.

The plaintiff in a criminal case is always the government, such as the United States of American, The State of California, and/or the City of Memphis.

In a criminal case, the only party who can possibly be found guilty is the defendant, as the defendant is the only one who have any charges levied against him.

In a civil case, a defendant can file counterclaims against a plaintiff.

In a criminal case, the defendant has not right or ability to file counterclaims against the plaintiff government.

Thus the plaintiff in a criminal case can never be found guilty.

Guilty vs Not-Guilty In A Civil Case

In a civil case, both the plaintiff and the defendant can assert claims against each other.

Some of these claims may resemble criminal cases in fact, such as assault, battery, trespass, and theft.

But even in claims between the parties involving acts that could be considered criminal, neither of the parties can be found “guilty” in a criminal case.

In civil cases, the trier of fact (the judge or jury) does not weigh guilt vs innocence.

Instead, the trier of fact determines which of the parties have proven their cases to the requisite level of proof (usually a preponderance of the evidence).

If the party (plaintiff or defendant) has proven their claim sufficiently, then the trier of fact may then make decisions about just how liable the party is to be.

In a civil case, both the plaintiff and the defendant can prevail on some or all of their claims (or even none).

But the plaintiff cannot be found guilty in a civil case, and neither can the defendant.

How Can Someone Be Liable In A Civil Case But Not Guilty In A Criminal Case? (For the Same Conduct)

The burden of proof is usually the reason why a defendant could be found not guilty in a criminal case but liable for the same conduct in a civil case.

In a criminal case, the burden of proof is very high, almost the highest burden of proof there is: “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In a civil case, the burden if proof is significant, but not high: “a preponderance of the evidence” meaning “more likely than not.”

The facts may rise to “more likely than not” but not to “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

This would establish liability in a civil court, but not guilt in a criminal court.

Wrap Up

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Can a Plaintiff Be Found Guilty