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The PLEA: Mock Trials

The PLEA: Mock Trials

Developing Your Own Mock Trial: Civil vs. Criminal Cases

Up to this point, most of the discussion about mock trials has been based on criminal law. However, a civil case would also make an excellent mock trial. If you are creating your own mock trial based on civil law, it is important to be aware how civil law differs from criminal law. The chart below explains some of their differences.

Civil Law

Concerned with the private matters between individuals, encompassing such areas as family matters, contracts, debts, and insurance.

Criminal Law

Concerned about wrongs against society, encompassing such areas as theft, homicide, and assault.

Civil Law

Cases are initiated by the individual concerned, called the plaintiff. When a person decides to sue someone, they go to court to file a claim.

Criminal Law

Cases usually start when the police charge a person with an offence. The Crown Prosecutor decides whether to proceed with a criminal prosecution.

Civil Law

Most cases will either be heard in Small Claims Court or in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Criminal Law

Cases begin in Provincial Court but may move to Court of Queen’s Bench depending upon the nature of the alleged crime.

Civil Law

Cases may be based on written laws, called statutes. When there are no statutes setting out the area of law in question, cases are resolved using the reasoning from similar cases as precedents.

Criminal Law

Cases are always based on written laws, called statutes. However, criminal cases will often look to past precedents created by earlier court rulings to interpret the law.

Civil Law

Cases must be proved on a balance of probabilities. This means that the side with the stronger evidence will prevail, even if their evidence is only a little more convincing than the other side.

Criminal Law

Cases must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the evidence and the facts establish the guilt of the accused and do not show any other sensible explanation of the events.

Civil Law

People are judged to be or not to be legally responsible for their actions. Judge will determine the remedy: often this is either financial compensation or injunctions to prevent further harm.

Criminal Law

People are judged to be innocent or guilty of the crime they are accused of. Judge will determine the sentence: often this includes fines and imprisonment.

Despite these differences, the trial processes of both civil and criminal matters are similar. However, civil cases include a formal process to see if a settlement can be reached. This leads to many cases being settled before they go to trial.

A civil law mock trial can be just as interesting as a criminal law mock trial. However, it is important to keep the differences in mind if you are developing your own civil trial.

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