What is the Difference Between an Accusation and Allegation?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Tyler D. Bailey, Esq. with Bailey Law Firm, L.L.C..
Accusations and allegations are closely related, but they vary in their typicality of use. While these words are often used interchangeably, accusations tend to refer to claims of one party’s criminal wrongdoing, while an allegation generally refers to claims of wrongdoing that may or may not be criminal but are generally evaluated in civil court. Accusations tend to be used in criminal court after someone has been charged with a crime, whereas allegations is a term that tends to be used in civil court.
Understanding the difference between criminal and civil court may help understand how these words are typically used.
Contrary to popular belief, the same issue may be tried in both civil and criminal court. The key difference in criminal court is that it is filed on behalf of the state against the accused, whereas in civil court, the lawsuit is filed on behalf of the injured party against the defendant. Additionally, while the injured person may be awarded a small recovery in criminal court, the proceedings tend to focus on how the accused will be punished for their criminal misconduct. However, in a civil case, the focus of the judge and jury will be on establishing whether or not the defendant is liable for the actions which the plaintiff alleged, and how the defendant will be required to compensate the plaintiff for their damages.
In situations where one party is injured due to the criminal conduct of the other party, a criminal and civil suit may be filed at the same time. There is a common misconception that the injured person must wait for the criminal proceedings to conclude before filing a civil injury claim, but this is not the case.
Allegations are not yet proven.
It’s important to note that another difference between allegations and accusations is the burden of proof required to apply the word. An allegation is a claim that one party behaved in a certain way, even if they do not presently have the necessary evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Allegations are often made “on information and belief”, in situations where the plaintiff does not have access to the necessary resources to prove the allegation as fact. Allegations of misconduct laid out in a civil complaint or lawsuit are then evaluated in a civil court where the attorneys will be allowed to pursue further evidence and present it before a jury to decide if the allegations were warranted.
Accusations require a higher burden of proof.
Accusations arise when one party is officially charged with a certain crime; these charges are typically handed down by indictment, jury, or charges filed by a District Attorney. However, it’s important to remember that being charged and being convicted of a crime are two different things. Additionally, for someone to be charged with an accusation, the prosecuting party must generally provide some sort of evidence to prove that the accusation is valid. The accused may then fight the charges in court with evidence of their own, or plead guilty and accept whatever verdict the judge hands down.