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Domestic Violence

Criminal and Civil Court Procedures

The court system can be a confusing place. This page will provide you with some simple definitions of the different types of court and the remedies provided by them. For a more detailed explanation please contact us; we are happy to make an appointment to answer your questions and/or to address your concerns. Remember a member of CAN will always go with you to court and help you understand what is going on step by step.

Criminal Court

Most people access the criminal court system through lodging a criminal complaint against someone with their state or local police. In criminal court the crime is considered a crime against the state, not against an individual. Hence, in court you will here them call the case ”the State of Illinois vs. Bob or Barbara Bully ” not “Val Q. Victim vs. Pat Perpetrator”. In criminal court the victim is represented by a States Attorney and is called “THE WITNESS FOR THE STATE.” In criminal court the burden of proof is called “Beyond a reasonable doubt” which is defined as:

“The standard in a criminal case requiring that the jury be satisfied to a moral certainty that every element of a crime has been proven by the prosecution. This standard of proof does not require that the state establish absolute certainty by eliminating all doubt, but it does require that the evidence be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of the ordinary person.”

“REASONABLE DOUBT - The level of certainty a juror must have to find a defendant guilty of a crime. A real doubt, based upon reason and common sense after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence, or lack of evidence, in a case.”

“Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, is proof of such a convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in the most important of your own affairs. However, it does not mean an absolute certainty.”

The remedies offered by criminal court are: an Order of Protection for the victim, punishment for the perpetrator including but not limited to; monetary fines, batterer's counseling, a criminal record, community service, probation and jail.


Civil Court:

This is where one person civilly suits another. Most people are familiar with civil suits like divorce, custody issues or small claims court. In Chicago we can civilly suit for Orders of Protection and soon No Contact Orders. Hence, it is the opposite of criminal court in that the case is called Val Q. Victim vs. Pat P. Perpetrator not ”the State of Illinois vs. Bob or Barbara Bully”. This does not result in a criminal record for the perpetrator; rather it is a record of the court such as a divorce or custody suit.

In civil court the burden of proof is called: “the preponderance of evidence” which is defined as “evidence of greater weight or more convincing than the opposing evidence; evidence more credible and convincing, more reasonable and probable, and can be circumstantial in nature.”

PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE - The level of proof required to prevail in most civil cases. The judge or jury must be persuaded that the facts are more probably one way (the plaintiff's way) than another (the defendant's).

"Preponderance of the evidence" means that quantity and quality of evidence which, when fairly considered, produces the stronger impression, and has the greater weight, and is more convincing as to its truth than the evidence in opposition.

The remedies offered in civil court are varied; they can include: Orders of Protection, No contact Orders (summer 04), divorces, financial compensation, child custody rulings, child support etc.


This project was supported by Grant No. 2002-WA-BX-0011 awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women and the U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.