What are the basic differences in criminal and civil court cases?
In criminal court, the case is filed by the state or county prosecutor and the purpose is to punish the abuser for breaking the law, which may result in jail time. In civil cases, the case is filed by you (the victim) or your attorney and the purpose is usually to have the abuser pay you for damages that his/her behavior caused you. In civil cases, you are not asking the judge to send the abuser to jail for his/her behavior (even though the abuser’s behavior may be a crime in your state). In some situations, there may be both civil and criminal cases happening at the same time or close in time based on the abusive behavior. For example, in 2008, Erin Andrews, a sportscaster on ESPN, was stalked by a man who filmed her in her hotel room through a peephole. A year later, the stalker was convicted of stalking in criminal court and sentenced to over 2 years in jail. Five years later, Erin Andrews successfully sued the stalker (in addition to the hotel and others) in civil court for money damages based on negligence, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress. It may not always be clear what legal options are available to you and so it’s important to consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about the laws surrounding technology misuse.