What is a Defendant?

Legal Tips and Resources

A defendant goes by many names in the courtroom, be it criminal, civil, or family law cases. As it states in the name, a defendant is someone who must “defend” him or herself. This means, they are the people who have lawsuits filed against them, criminal charges brought against them, or are called into court by someone else’s request. In a divorce case they are called “respondent”.

In civil cases, someone is filing a lawsuit against a person for several reasons.

In criminal cases, the state or local authorities have a prosecutor files charges against an individual.

In both instances, these individuals are considered the “defendant”.

If you are accused of a criminal act, it is not your duty to prove your innocence, it is the job of the accuser to bring their version of facts and evidence and present it to the court and jury.

If you are being brought in to small claims court, in this instance it is also the responsibility of the plaintiff to bring forth information to show the reason for their claim and the reason it is a defendants responsibility to cover damages in relation to the claim.

Because in some cases you are not aware that you are even a defendant in a case, with civil cases, you will be served with the complaint in a civil case, this will inform you of any court appearances you must make and why. In a criminal case, you may not be so lucky. Arrest warrants are put out against you and sometimes you find out the hard way that you have been accused of a criminal act. If you are going through a divorce, you may have a date to respond to the documents served, and this is why in these cases you are considered a “respondent”.

While you may not need to seek legal representation every time you are approached with the burden of being a “defendant”, it is best to speak with a skilled attorney in your area so that you understand your rights and the next best step to take. A knowledgeable Decatur attorney will inform you of what you will need to do to protect yourself and ultimately get the best results in the courtroom. If you or someone you know has been accused, or is in the process of a lawsuit, or divorce, speak with an attorney before making any decisions on your own.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into criminal defense and defendants.