The Distinction Between Criminal, Tort, and Moral Wrongs
A tort case is a civil court proceeding. The accused is the "defendant" and the victim is a "plaintiff." The charges are brought by the plaintiff. If the defendant loses, the defendant has to pay damages to the plaintiff. A crime is a wrongful act that the state or federal government has identified as a crime. A criminal case is a criminal proceeding. The accused is also called a 'defendant". The victim is the person who has been hurt or the state of Georgia or other governmental entity. The charges are brought by the government. If the defendant loses, the defendant must serve a sentence. A fine is paid to the government and there is possible restitution to the victim. The state has made selling heroin (event 1) a crime. Mary would be prosecuted for this crime in a criminal proceeding by a district attorney representing the people of the state. If found guilty, Mary could be fined and sent to jail. The victim of a crime is not a party to the legal action. Jack would not be suing Mary. Rather, he would be one of several witnesses for the state in the case against her in court. Tort cases are heard in civil proceedings. The legal process is quite different from criminal proceedings. The civil process provides a legal means for victims of harmful acts to be compensated for the harm done to them. Event 2 is a tort. Mrs. Frayle has been injured by Steve's act. In order to recover money for the harm or damage she has suffered, the civil process requires that Mrs. Frayle sue Steve. Furthermore, she must bear the cost in terms of time, energy, and money for doing so.
Conversely, many civil actions do not violate criminal law. For example, civil suits for divorce, wills, or contracts do not have a corresponding criminal wrong. Even though there is certainly an overlap between criminal law and civil law, it is not a perfect overlap. Because there is no legal action that can be filed for committing a moral wrong, there really is not any overlap between criminal wrongs, civil wrongs, and moral wrongs.
David J. Seipp, The Distinction Between Crime and Tort in the Early Common Law, 76 B.U. L. REV. 59, 59 (1996).
John C.P. Goldberg & Benjamin C. Zipursky, Accidents of the Great Society, 64 MD. L. REV. 364, 402-03 (2005)
Benjamin C. Zipursky, Civil Recourse, Not Corrective Justice, 91 GEO. L.J. 695 (2003)