Criminal Law and Civil Law — What’s the Difference?

criminal law and civil lawThere are a lot of important differences between criminal law and civil law, and they can be confusing for many people. But it’s very important that you know these differences – and that you also hire a qualified, knowledgeable attorney – should you ever find yourself involved in any sort of legal action.

Differences in Cases

A civil law case starts when someone files a complaint. This party, known as the “plaintiff,” can be a company, an organization or an individual. The party who has to respond to the complaint is known as the “defendant,” and the process through which the case is heard is known as “litigation.” Basically, the plaintiff is asking the court to remedy some sort of wrong that has been committed by the defendant. This remedy is usually monetary compensation.

A criminal case, on the other hand, is filed by a governmental entity, such as a police department. A charge is filed against a company, organization or individual, and this party is also known as a defendant. The entity is represented by a prosecutor, while the defendant will (or at least should) be represented by a criminal defense attorney. One person can never file a criminal charge against another – he or she may report a crime, but the charge is always filed by the governmental entity. Criminal law typically involves misdemeanors (which usually result in a year or less in jail) and felonies (more serious charges that can lead to a jail sentence of a year or more).

Differences in Punishment

The other main difference between criminal law and civil law is the possible punishment. In a civil case, if the defendant loses, it has to reimburse the plaintiff in the manner determined by a judge. In a criminal case, the defendant could face incarceration.

The attorneys with Luce Law, PC have a great deal of experience in both criminal law and civil law. If you would like to learn more about how we may be able to help you, please contact us online or call 972-346-5170.