Civil Vs Criminal Law
One of the major distinctions in the law is between civil law and criminal law. Although there is sometimes significant gray area between these two branches of law, the major difference between the two is that civil law deals with disputes between individuals, whereas criminal law deals with individuals who have violated laws that dictate certain behaviors, and are therefore seen as an affront to society or the state.
In civil law, there are generally two parties to a lawsuit who are seeking a resolution to some sort of dispute. For example, a person who has been injured through another person’s negligence, such as in a car accident, is seeking some sort of compensation for their injury and loss. It also could be a party who is suing another party over a contract dispute, such as a person who is suing a builder for not properly completing promised work, or perhaps the builder who believes he has completed the work properly but is not being paid. In these types of cases, both parties will present their cases, and the court will try to find an equitable solution to the dispute, usually by ordering one party to pay damages to another party. Civil law is a very broad area of the law and can arise out of many situations including employment relationships, landlord and tenant relationships, business transactions, and even family relationships and child custody.
Criminal law is very different. In criminal cases, one party is the defendant, or person who is accused of committing a crime, or violation of statute. The other party is generally a prosecutor who represents the state or the people. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person committed the crime, and the defendant presents their defense. The court or a jury then decides if the person is guilty or not guilty and then will sentence the person to some form of punishment for their crime which is usually either a fine or imprisonment.
In addition to these major differences, there are many procedural differences between criminal and civil law. There are usually distinct rules of evidence, rules of procedure, and burdens of proof, and the cases are generally held in different courts. It is therefore important to be represented by an attorney who is experienced in practicing in the respective area of law in which you need representation.