There are some important distinctions here. First, in a civil domestic violence case, the victim is a real party (plaintiff) in the case. In a criminal case, the plaintiff is not the alleged victim, it is the People of the State of California.
This distinction is important. It means that in a criminal case setting the victim has no real discretion or control as to the process or the outcome of the case. Many domestic violence victims report to me that they feel the criminal justice system actually re- victimizes them.
In contrast, a civil DV will be entitled, “Jane Doe vs. John Smith.” The victim is an actual party to the case. She has her own attorney, she has the benefit of attorney-client privilege concerning all communications with her attorney, and she also has a much lower standard of proof (preponderance of the evidence) in the civil case than the district attorney has (beyond a reasonable doubt) in the criminal case.
Also, in a civil domestic violence case the plaintiff wins if just 9 out of 12 jurors vote in her favor. A criminal verdict requires unanimity.
Finally, there are many more remedies available to the victim in a civil case that are not available to her in a criminal case. In a civil case the victim can receive compensatory damages, which include economic and non-economic damages.
She can also receive punitive damages. In fact, in a domestic violence civil case, the judge even has the discretion to award the prevailing domestic violence victim compensation for attorney fees and costs in connection with the case.
Learn more about domestic violence and violent crimes.