Civil vs. Criminal Law Explained

Civil vs. Criminal Law Explained

February 21, 2019

In some circumstances, the same (or very similar) legal issues might be explored in civil and criminal law. The primary difference is that civil cases usually involve disputes between people or organizations that are more private in nature, while criminal cases involve disputes over a specific action deemed to be harmful to the general public.

Here’s a quick overview from an attorney in Lubbock, TX that should explain to you the differences between civil and criminal law.

Civil law

In a civil case, a person or entity known as the plaintiff files a claim against another person or entity (the defendant). This lawsuit usually involves a claim that the defendant failed to carry out some sort of duty it owed to the plaintiff.

Both the plaintiff and defendant in this case are referred to as the “parties” to the lawsuit. The plaintiff will likely ask the court to either tell the defendant to uphold its duty, to compensate the plaintiff for the damage caused or both.

Civil suits can be heard in either federal or state courts. For our purposes, we’ll look at a case involving contract law, as this is one of the most common types of civil suits.

Let’s say a company agrees to sell a customer a product at a specific price but then does not follow through on that agreement, charging the customer a higher price instead. The customer could sue the company to make good on the original, agreed-upon price if there was a contract in place. The customer could either seek compensation for the amount paid over that original agreed-upon price, or seek to have the original agreement enforced before making any payment.

In addition, any individual, entity or government can file a civil lawsuit in federal court claiming violations of federal lawsuits or constitutional violations. The False Claims Act is one vehicle that allows an individual to file a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government for overbilling Medicare or Medicaid.

Criminal law

Criminal law involves a person accused of a crime who is formally accused in the form of an indictment (for serious crimes) or for misdemeanor charges. In such a case, the government prosecutes the case through either the state attorney’s office or the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The victim is not responsible for filing a criminal lawsuit—the government will prosecute the person who allegedly committed the crime. There might not even be a single individual victim—the case might involve a person who was a threat to public safety. Consider, for example, a drunk driver who did not injure another person.

If the court determines that the individual committed the crime, that person will be sentenced to a monetary penalty, imprisonment and/or supervision in the form of probation.

The same issue may result in both a criminal and civil trial. The most commonly used example here is the O.J. Simpson case, in which Simpson was found not guilty in the criminal murder case but was found liable in the civil wrongful death case.

For more information about criminal vs. civil law, contact an attorney in Lubbock, TX at the Law Office of Rob Biggers today.

**This Blog/Website is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog/website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.**

Categorised in: