Criminal LAw

What is the difference between civil law and criminal law?

Laws can be classified in various ways. Among the two broad classifications of law are civil and criminal laws. Civil laws deal with the private rights of people. These laws are used when individual rules have been violated. The violation may include injury to an individual and business or corporation disputes. On the other hand, criminal laws are laws carried out in criminal law courts, and they are applied when an individual has committed an offense against the public, state, or society. This blog explains the difference between criminal and civil law. Continue reading to find 4 differences between criminal and civil law.

Differences between civil and criminal law

4 differences between civil and criminal law
4 differences between civil and criminal law

Burden of proof

Civil courts and criminal courts differ in standards. Criminal law court has a high standard of proof. In a criminal court, the aim is to prove the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.  The reason for such proof is because of the severe punishments served when the defendant is found guilty. In a criminal law court, the plaintiff is the federal government or state, and it has the responsibility to prove that the defendant is certainly guilty.

In a civil law court, definitive proof is a bit lower than that of criminal law. Here the plaintiff must prove that there is a high likelihood that the defendant did commit the criminal act they are charged against. Civil cases are usually based on clarity and convincing standards. If the court decides that the defendant committed the offense, the defendant(s) is not said to be guilty but liable. 

Legal penalties 

In a criminal case if the defendant is found guilty of a crime, the penalties may include probation, fines, and incarceration. In this court, the judge uses the jury to judge the defendant, and if found guilty, the judge passes sentence. During sentencing, the guidelines established by criminal law court are used in which the judge has limited discretion. 

In a civil case, each crime has its prescribed penalty. If the defendant is found liable, the jury can order him to compensate the plaintiff for losses and medical bills in case of an injury. The defendant also can be ordered to compensate the plaintiff financially or pay for the damages. Other penalties may include going to prison or community services. 

Deadline for taking a case

In criminal cases, when a crime occurs, the prosecution lawyer decides if the evidence available to accuse the defendant is enough. The criminal court has no deadline for submitting a case. Nevertheless, a crime punishable by summary conviction has a deadline of one year. In civil cases, a person suffering damage can’t wait for too long for legal action. The law has specific deadlines called extinctive prescription. These deadlines differ depending on the case type. 


The approach given to a case in a civil law court differs from that in criminal court. How? Criminal laws are complicated; when handling a criminal case, the attorney has to consider proof very closely, philosophy of claim, litigation strategy, and rules of evidence. A criminal case requires an attorney to think beyond the limits of a civil case. In a civil law court, an attorney requires less effort to resolve a lawsuit, and also the attorney is more flexible. In civil cases, there are more acceptable solutions.  According to research, 90% of civil lawsuits never make it to trial since they are settled early.


As evident above, there exist several essential differences when comparing civil and criminal law. The state and federal laws differ too. These differences are crucial since they have a significant impact on how to approach and manage a lawsuit. Generally, civil laws regulate individual privacy rights, whereas criminal law regulates individuals’ conduct, thus ensuring public protection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *