Is it due to the severity of the fraud.that is to say the amount of money lost? Is it measured by the depth of the deception? Is it defined by the frequency of fraudulent actions?

Or is the test, the burden of proof, that a situation is tried as civil fraud (preponderance of evidence) because it is too hard to prove criminally ("guilty beyond a reasonable doubt")? Is there an analogy between this and OJ Simpon's acquittal for criminal murder and a conviction on a civil charge?

2 Answers 2


A civil fraud is one pursued by a private plaintiff against the defendant and must be proved on the balance of probabilities. Success by the plaintiff results in restitution in the form of damages being payable from the defendant to the plaintiff.

A criminal fraud is one pursued by the state against the defendant and must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Success by the state results in punishment of the defendant by fine, community service, imprisonment etc.

The same fraud may result in a civil case, a criminal case, both or neither.

  • This answer implies that civil fraud usually just leads to restitution damages, but doesn't civil fraud often lead to punitive damages also? Just to clarify, I'd say, "Civil cases focus first on restitution while criminal cases focus first on punishment, but both restitution and punishment can result from either type of case."
    – bobuhito
    Mar 22, 2018 at 0:09
  • @bobuhito punitive damages are largely a us only phenomenon
    – Dale M
    Mar 22, 2018 at 0:10
  • Oh, I wasn't aware of the big difference. In US law, it seems to me that fraud, being a tort, often should come with punitive damages even in civil cases. I'm not a lawyer, but do live in US, so just hoping for a sanity check here.
    – bobuhito
    Mar 22, 2018 at 0:23

Fraud is both a tort and a crime. This is not unusual. Assault and battery are examples of torts that are crimes.

It is a civil fraud when a party files a civil suit alleging another party has committed fraud.

It is a criminal fraud when the government brings a criminal suit alleging a party of committing fraud.

The elements for civil and criminal fraud may differ in a jurisdiction. The burden of proof in a tort (normally preponderance of the evidence) is lower than in a criminal case (beyond reasonable doubt).

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