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Criminal and Civil Law: What Are the Differences?
There are many differences between criminal law and civil law. If deemed an accomplice, the process is entirely is different, and so is the timeframe after which crimes “expire”. However, one thing remains the same – you better get a lawyer.
But, before you start seeking the best San Diego criminal lawyer, read our brief-but-exhaustive analysis on the many differences between civil and criminal law.
What is the difference between criminal law and civil cases?
Civil cases and criminal cases are quite different in nature, no matter if you’re in, let’s say, Indiana, or under the auspices of the Southern District of California Department of Justice. The two processes share little to no similarities at all.
In order to shine a light on the topic, we’re going to first explain the most important aspects of civil cases, and then do the same with criminal cases, making it as easy as possible to draw clear conclusions on their differences.
What are civil cases like?
Civil cases begin when an entity (the government or a corporation) or a person – the plaintiff, raises a claim that another entity or person didn’t do their legal duty which they owed to the plaintiff.
Bot the defendant and the plaintiff are called “litigants” or “parties” in civil cases. The plaintiff can demand that the court order the defendant to either compensate for the damage caused, fulfill the afore agreed upon duty, or both, depending on the case.
When it comes to legal duties, they include respecting all the rights described by the Constitution, or by state or federal law. Civil cases can be tried in both federal and state courts, depending on the severity of the harm done by the defendant, as well as the demands of the plaintiff.
Most common cases involve an entity or a person suing another entity or a person for not fulfilling the terms of the contract, as well as the government taking a case to a federal court for violations of either constitutional rights or federal statutes.
What are criminal cases like?
When it comes to criminal cases, the first step is usually a formal accusation – indictment for serious crimes and felonies, or information for misdemeanors. If the crime is federan, the government of the United States of America prosecutes the defendant through the United State’s Attorney’s office, while a District Attorney (state’s attorney’s office) is in charge of state crimes.
Since the government of the United States of America officially prosecutes the crimes, it is not up to the victim of one to bring a case to court. And, in some crimes, there isn’t actually a specific victim, such as the government prosecuting an individual driving while under the influence.
If an individual is found guilty of a crime, the court will issue a sentence depending on the severity of the crime itself, ranging from monetary penalties, supervision, imprisonment, or a combination of any of these three.
What is the main difference between criminal law and civil law?
We would be hard pressed to name a single most significant difference between criminal law and civil law. Perhaps we could see how the Webster dictionary defines one and the other, and start from there:
- Criminal law – The law of crimes and punishments.
- Civil law – The law of private or civil rights.
However, even with these definitions you are probably left wondering what exactly are the dissimilarities between these two parts of the law, and rightly so. In order to explain just how different civil and criminal law are, we’re going to break these differences down into several categories, and explain them separately.
- Conduct at issue – Seeing as how the laws that you, an individual, can violate are different under civil and criminal law, the conduct at issue is different as well. For example, civil cases are usually about negligent conduct, while criminal cases usually involve intent and are generally more serious than civil cases.
- Burden of proof – Another important distinction between criminal and civil law is what constitutes the burden of proof, i.e. what it takes to make your case and win it.
In criminal cases the bar is higher and you need to establish “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to win the case. In civil cases, the bar is lower, and winning a case usually means meeting the preponderance of evidence, i.e. determining that there is at least 50% chance of the claims being correct.
- Statute of limitations – In the majority of civil cases, there is a clear statute of limitations on how long you have to raise charges against a party depending on the crime committed.
However, when it comes to the majority of serious criminal cases, such as kidnapping, murder, grand theft, or sexual assault, there is no statute of limitations, and the government can raise charges at any given time.
- Punishment – As we’ve explained before, punishments also differ between civil and criminal law. Criminal cases most likely involve incarceration or probation, while civil cases usually involve financial penalties or an order for a change in behavior.
- Examples – Finally, here are some clear examples of which breaches of the law fall into the category of criminal law, and which fall into the category of civil law:
- Criminal law – conspiracy, homicide, assault, controlled substance possession, obstruction of justice, etc.
- Civil law – bankruptcy, damage to property, defamation, custody disputes, breach of contract, etc.
“Who is the best criminal lawyer in San Diego to represent my case in court?”
If you’re looking for the best criminal defense attorney in San Diego, Monder Criminal Lawyer Group is where you should look! Vik Monder has created an impressive team of top-notch criminal lawyers who have plenty of experience in litigation and are prepared for any case you can throw at them. If you need to clear your head, we suggest taking a trip to the Cabrillo National Monument but making a quick stop at Monder Law on the way there and scheduling your consultation!