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What’s the Difference Between Criminal and Civil Law?

Civil law and criminal law are two main classifications of the law. Civil law regulates conflicts between private parties, such as individuals or organizations, while criminal laws regulate crimes and frauds committed against the government. Typical civil law cases include malpractice or negligence. The criminal cases usually include assault, battery, arson or murder cases. Civil law cases are filed by private parties and criminal law cases are initiated by the government. The wrongdoer is not punished if he/she commits a civil crime. The person who has suffered in a civil case benefits the law or avoids a loss as he/she gets compensation or restitution of the harm or damage. To the contrary, in the criminal cases, the wrongdoer gets punished by law. It is noteworthy that criminal and civil law do not exclude one another. Thus, it is possible for an individual to be prosecuted for criminal conduct and at the same time face civil litigation.

Civil Cases

Civil law case begins with a complaint filed by an individual, an organization, a company or a corporation against another party. The party that files a case is called the plaintiff and the party that is being sued is called the defendant. The process is called litigation. The plaintiff may claim the court to impose the defendant to fulfill a duty or make compensation for damage or harm. Civil cases are brought in both state and federal courts.   

One of the remarkable differences between civil and criminal cases is the punishment. In case of criminal law, the losing party will have to reimburse the plaintiff for the damage or harm he/she suffered in the result of the defendant’s activity. The amount of compensation, called punitive damage,  is determined by the judge.

In a civil case, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. The defendant can only deny the evidence provided by the plaintiff. So, if the judge is convinced that more than 50% of the evidence favors the plaintiff, then the plaintiff wins.

Though civil cases are usually settled before reaching a trial, to get a fair deal one will need a good civil law attorney. A knowledgeable and skillful civil law attorney is the one who has extensive experience in civil litigation and will help you to get the best possible reimbursement for the harm you experienced.

Criminal Cases

A criminal case is initiated by the government, referred to as the State, and represented by a prosecutor. An individual can never file criminal charges against another person.  Yet, an individual can report a crime and the government or police will file criminal charges in response. The police and prosecutor are hired by the government to solve criminal cases, hence, they are paid from public funds. For example, if you have become the victim of a crime, you should report it to the police and their duty is to investigate the case and find the suspects.

As criminal litigation is much more serious than a  civil one, the criminal defendants have more rights and protection than a civil defendant has. The criminal crimes punishable by the government are divided into two categories depending on the seriousness: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies have a possible sentence of more than a year of imprisonment. Misdemeanors have a possible sentence of less than a year of imprisonment. A defendant is declared guilty if more than 99% evidence against him is proven. Even the toughest criminal case can be successfully resolved with the help of an experienced defense attorney. Once assigned a case, a knowledgeable and skillful defense attorney will investigate the allegations made against the defendant and cooperate with an experienced criminal investigator to provide exculpatory evidence negating potential charges by the prosecutor.

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