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Civil Law vs. Criminal Law: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 12, 2023
Civil law pertains to disputes between individuals or entities, whereas criminal law involves prosecution by the state for wrongful acts.

Key Differences

Civil law and criminal law serve different purposes within the legal system, providing separate frameworks for resolving disputes and administering justice, respectively. Civil law primarily addresses conflicts between private parties, whereas criminal law deals with actions that are offenses against the state or public.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023
Under civil law, the emphasis is placed on providing remedies and compensations for victims, typically through monetary damages. Criminal law, conversely, prioritizes punishment and deterrence, seeking to impose penalties like fines, imprisonment, or even capital punishment in severe cases.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023
Civil law proceedings generally involve a plaintiff seeking compensation for a wrongdoing from the defendant, without the implication of punishment. In contrast, criminal law proceedings are initiated by the government, aiming to penalize the defendant for harming society through illegal activities.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023
Regarding legal processes, civil law adheres to a structure involving lawsuits and possibly trials to resolve disputes. Criminal law, on the other hand, involves more stringent processes including arrest, charges, arraignments, trials, and potentially, sentencing, all under stringent procedural safeguards due to the potential loss of liberty.
Janet White
Oct 12, 2023
Civil law usually employs a lower burden of proof, often being the "preponderance of the evidence." Criminal law, reflecting its severe consequences, demands “beyond a reasonable doubt” as its burden of proof, ensuring thorough examination and high certainty in verdicts.
Janet White
Oct 12, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Primary Purpose

Resolving disputes
Prosecuting wrongful acts
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Parties Involved

Private entities
Government vs. Individual
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Potential Penalties

Compensation, remedies
Fines, imprisonment, capital punishment
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Initiation of Proceedings

By plaintiff
By the state
Aimie Carlson
Oct 12, 2023

Burden of Proof

Preponderance of the evidence
Beyond a reasonable doubt
Janet White
Oct 12, 2023
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Civil Law and Criminal Law Definitions

Civil Law

A legal system originating in continental Europe based on written codes.
In civil law countries, the role of court decisions is secondary in shaping legal rules.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Criminal Law

Statutes related to crime, its detection, and punishment.
The attorney practiced criminal law, defending individuals accused of offenses.
Harlon Moss
Oct 12, 2023

Civil Law

Encompasses laws which deal with family relations.
Divorce proceedings fall under civil law, establishing legal responsibilities.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Criminal Law

Laws dealing with the punishment of offenses against societal standards.
Under criminal law, theft is punishable by fines or imprisonment.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Civil Law

A set of rules dealing with obligations, remedies, and rights between entities.
Civil law ensures individuals can seek remedies for breaches of contract.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 12, 2023

Criminal Law

System of law dealing with the prosecution of offenses.
Criminal law seeks to uphold justice by prosecuting wrongful acts.
Harlon Moss
Oct 12, 2023

Civil Law

Law that relates to matters which are not criminal.
The attorney specializes in civil law, focusing on contract disputes.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 12, 2023

Criminal Law

The body of law pertaining to crimes and offenses.
The judge specialized in criminal law, particularly in felony cases.
Huma Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Civil Law

Law concerning disputes between private parties.
The civil law case was filed by the tenant against the landlord for not returning the deposit.
Huma Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Criminal Law

Legal framework establishing penalties for impermissible actions.
Criminal law mandates penalties to discourage and punish illegal behavior.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

FAQs

Who initiates legal action in civil law?

In civil law, the plaintiff, typically a private party, initiates legal action.
Sara Rehman
Oct 12, 2023

Is a breach of contract a matter for civil law?

Yes, civil law typically addresses disputes like breaches of contract.
Harlon Moss
Oct 12, 2023

Can criminal law lead to imprisonment?

Yes, criminal law can impose penalties, including imprisonment.
Sara Rehman
Oct 12, 2023

Who prosecutes cases in criminal law?

In criminal law, the government or state prosecutes cases.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Can civil law cases involve corporations?

Yes, civil law cases can involve disputes between individuals, entities, or corporations.
Sara Rehman
Oct 12, 2023

Does civil law deal with divorce cases?

Yes, civil law encompasses family law, including divorce.
Harlon Moss
Oct 12, 2023

Are the penalties in civil law punitive?

No, civil law aims for remedy and compensation, not punishment.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Does criminal law involve a jury trial?

Yes, criminal law can involve a jury trial, especially in serious cases.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Is civil law concerned with societal harm?

No, civil law focuses on resolving disputes and compensating individual harm.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Are misdemeanors governed by criminal law?

Yes, misdemeanors are less severe offenses governed by criminal law.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Is perjury a subject of criminal law?

Yes, perjury is considered an offense and is subject to criminal law.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 12, 2023

Can civil law involve non-monetary remedies?

Yes, civil law can involve remedies like injunctions, which are non-monetary.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Can criminal law enforce societal norms?

Yes, criminal law enforces societal norms by penalizing offenses.
Janet White
Oct 12, 2023

Can a person be liable in both civil and criminal law?

Yes, some actions may have both civil and criminal law implications.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Does civil law enforce moral standards?

No, civil law primarily deals with disputes and obligations between parties.
Janet White
Oct 12, 2023

Is civil law focused on compensation?

Yes, civil law primarily seeks to compensate aggrieved parties.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Does criminal law address offenses against the state?

Yes, criminal law deals with acts considered offenses against the state or public.
Huma Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Is theft considered a matter of criminal law?

Yes, theft is considered an offense and is dealt with under criminal law.
Harlon Moss
Oct 12, 2023

Can civil law result in a financial judgment?

Yes, civil law often results in financial judgments to compensate aggrieved parties.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 12, 2023

Are felonies handled under criminal law?

Yes, felonies are serious offenses handled under criminal law.
Harlon Moss
Oct 12, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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