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How the legal system works



A criminal prosecution is brought by the government to punish an individual for committing a crime against society and to deter others from committing similar crimes. Although a criminal defendant may have directly injured only one victim, it is thought that any violation of the criminal laws harms society as well. In the US the victim is not permitted to prosecute the criminal case, it is the government’s job in its role as the society’s representative. The crime victim is the principal witness against the criminal defendant.

On the other hand, a crime victim may file a civil lawsuit against a wrongdoer. If the victim sues, he or she is called the plaintiff; the perpetrator of the crime is called the defendant, just as in the criminal case. The civil case provides a legal forum for persons seeking compensation for their injuries or vindication of their rights. Unlike a criminal case, the defendant in a civil case who is found liable for harming the plaintiff cannot be sentenced to prison but will be compelled to pay compensation or ordered to take or desist from some action.


To bring prosecution = to prosecute a caseA (criminal) defendant doing something
To file a lawsuitA witness
To punish someone for doing somethingA crime victim
To commit a crimeA wrongdoer
To injure or harm someoneA civil case / a criminal case
To seek compensation
To be liable for
To be sentenced to prison

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