Parties & Issues

Juries may be used in criminal and civil cases. Criminal cases involve violations of law for which a defendant may be fined or imprisoned. Civil cases are disputes between parties involving personal or property rights.

Parties in a civil case: In a civil case, the parties are called the PLAINTIFF (the one who began the lawsuit) and the DEFENDANT. If, for example, the case is called John Jones vs. the Zero Company, or John Jones vs. Susan Smith, then John Jones is the plaintiff and the Zero Company, or Susan Smith, is the defendant.

Parties in a criminal case: The parties in a criminal case are the PROSECUTION and the ACCUSED or DEFENDANT. If the case is called the State of South Dakota vs. John Jones, or the City of Aberdeen vs. John Jones, the state or the city is the prosecution and John Jones is the accused or defendant.

Issues in a civil case: A civil case involves the claim of a plaintiff against a defendant...and the defense of the defendant against that claim. It can also involve the claim of a defendant against a plaintiff, and this is called the COUNTERCLAIM. There may also be CROSSCLAIMS between defendants or by defendants against third parties.

Issues in a criminal case: At issue in a criminal case is whether the accused is guilty of the offense. Generally, the jury is charged only with deciding if the accused is guilty or not guilty.

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