Court Home Court Divisions & Operations General Court Information Criminal Court Civil Court Orphans' Court Jury Service Self Help Court Opinions Court Rules Interpretation Services Contact The Court Disclaimer Court Employment Vacancy Information
What is the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case

Civil Cases

The person who commences a civil lawsuit is called the plaintiff. The person against whom the suit is brought is the defendant. In some cases, there may be more than one plaintiff or defendant. Long before the jury proceedings, the plaintiff will have filed with the court a written complaint stating the basis for his or her complaint against the defendant, and requesting money to compensate for his or her damages. The defendant's written answer states why defendant believes he is not responsible for the damage. A defendant's answer may also contain a counterclaim, a complaint the defendant says he has against the plaintiff usually concerning the same matter. These papers are called pleadings and jurors should understand that they are not evidence, merely the written contentions of the parties. Jurors rarely see the pleadings, and are not concerned with issues in the case other than those outlined by the trial judge.

Criminal Cases

When a defendant is charged with criminal violation of the law, the district attorney files a complaint or information against the person accused. The information specifies the charges, but it is not evidence. The plaintiff in a criminal case is always the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth is represented by the district attorney or his or her assistant. The person accused of breaking the law is the defendant. An information is the pleading that sets out the charge. One major difference between civil cases and criminal cases is that in civil cases, only 10 of the 12 jurors need reach the same decision to render a result. In criminal cases the decision must be unanimous. The final decision of the jury is called the verdict.

More Information for Jurors
About Jury Service in Northampton County
Jury Service FAQ
Juror Questionnaire
How Jurors are Selected
The Trial & Trial Procedure
Conduct of Jurors During a Trial
What is Evidence?
The Difference Between Civil and Criminal Cases

The Jury Clerk's Office will be able to get jurors answers or information not provided on this website. Call 610-829-6730.

Tracking address: Tracking code - do not email: (do not email this address - tracking purposes only)