Criminal law and civil law

Criminal and Civil Law
Criminal and Civil law
Criminal and civil laws are important in bring justice to the victims. However, they
follow certain procedures while administering justice. Criminal law solves cases involving
crimes while civil law solves cases involving disputes between private parties. This article
explains the definition of both laws, their importance, the party that files cases, how the system
works, decisions made, standard of proof, burden of proof, jury opinion, punishment, example of
cases and the similarities of both laws.
Criminal law is a structure of law that deals with crimes and the legal punishment given
on criminal offenses while civil law is a body of law that deals with disputes between people,
organizations or between this two whereby compensation is give to the victim.
The importance of Civil law is to solve cases between individuals and organizations or
between the two. In this law, compensation is awarded to the victim. The role of criminal law is
to ensure the stability of the state and society by punishing law offenders and deterring them and
other potential ones from offending (William, 2004). Criminal law protects the interest of the
public by punishing and rehabilitating lawbreakers.
Case filed by
In Civil law, cases are filed by disputing private parties while in criminal law cases are
filed by the government. Civil cases starts when a complaint is filed by one of the parties
involved in dispute. The party may be an individual, organization or a company. The party
complaining is known as the plaintiff, the party responding is the defendant, and the process is
known as litigation. In civil litigation, the plaintiff asks the court to order the defendant to correct
a wrong. In most cases, the remedy is in monetary form. In contrast, the government, referred to
as the state represented by a prosecutor against the defendant, files criminal cases. Nobody can
file a criminal case against another person. Any individual may report a crime but only the
government is liable in filling criminal charges in court. Crimes are activities that are punishable
by the government (William, 2004). However, they are divided into two categories of
seriousness: misdemeanors are crimes with sentence of one year or less incarceration and
felonies are crimes with sentence of more than one year incarceration.
How the system works
Police and prosecutor are hired by the state to enforce criminal law. These services are
paid using public funds. If you are a victim of crime, you are required to report to the police to
start investigation on the matter and find the suspect. If the charge is well presented and there is
enough evidence supporting it, the state prosecutes the suspect in court. This system is called
public prosecution (William, 2004). Civil law deals with private disputes. It deals with harm,
loss, or injury to one party by the other. A defendant in civil case is found either liable or not
liable for damages, whereas in a criminal case defendant is ruled either guilty or not.
In civil law, the judge decides whether the defendant is liable or not liable. It is the work
of the judge to decide on this case and make the best ruling. In criminal law, the defendant may
be convicted if he or she is found guilty and acquitted if not found guilty. It is the mandate of the
jury to decide if the defendant is guilty or not (William, 2004).
Standard of proof
More evidence is required to prove the accused is at fault in criminal cases than to find
the defendant is guilty in civil ones. In order to convict an individual of a crime, the prosecution
must show enough evidence to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual convicted
actually committed the crime and in some cases, they had intention to commit it. Judges and
juries must be certain the person committed the crime before convicting him to be guilty (Kelsen,
2007). Their decision should not be based on believe that the individual committed crime. There
must be sufficient evidence to convince them. Civil cases contrast criminal cases in that they are
proven on a balance of probabilities. Whether likely or unlikely that the defendant caused loss or
harm the court can decide to uphold a civil claim.
Burden of proof
In criminal law, the government bears the burden of proof in order to prove that the
defendant is guilty. In this law, the defendant is presumed to be innocent until he or she is proven
guilty by the government through the judges. In case of civil law, first the burden of proof lies
with the plaintiff and later with the defendant to refute the evidence given by the plaintiffs. In
cases of civil litigation if the judge or the jury believes that from the evidence provided by the
plaintiff more than 50% of it supports the plaintiff, then he or she rules on the side of the plaintiff
making him or her the winner (William, 2004). This 50% is very low compared to criminal law
where there must be 99% proof. In criminal law, the defendant is not declared guilty unless there
is more than 99% proof against him. If the evidence is less than 99% the judge cannot declare
him or her guilty based on believe that the defendant committed the crime.
There is notable difference in the type of punishment given in criminal and civil laws. In
case of criminal case, an individual found guilty is punished by incarceration in prison, fine
while in some cases the defendant is given death penalty. Whereas, in cases of civil law the
losing party has to reimburse the plaintiff, the amount of loss is determined by the judge and is
known as punitive damage. It is clear that criminal litigation is more serious and strict than civil
litigation (Kelsen, 2007). This implies that criminal defendants possess more rights and
protections than a civil defendant does. Criminal law protects defendants because they are
innocent unless 99% of the evidence proves them guilty of the crime. Civil law is not strict and
does not protect defendants because the judge gives ruling according to his or her believe.
Examples of criminal and civil cases
There are several examples of cases dealing with criminal and civil law, criminal law
cases include the following theft, robbery, murder, assault and trafficking illegal substances
while civil cases include the following cases landlord and tenant disputes, child custody
proceedings, personal injury, property disputes and divorce proceedings (William, 2004). From
the above sample cases, it is clear that criminal law deals with more serious cases compared to
civil law. Criminal cases carry more weight than civil cases.
Jury opinion
In civil cases, it is not a must the opinion of jury to be unanimous because laws vary from
one state to another while in criminal justice system the jury must agree unanimously before
convicting a defendant to be guilty (William, 2004). After ruling in civil cases either party be it,
the claimant or the defendant can appeal the decision of the court while in criminal cases only
the defendant is liable to appeal the court’s verdict.
Similarities between criminal and civil law
In these laws, both parties bringing the case may decide to drop the cases if they find the
evidence is too weak. The process involved in both cases may take a lot of time causing delays.
The party bringing the case bears the burden of proof. Both laws allow parties to defend
themselves. There is examination, cross-examination, and re-examination of witnesses in both
laws. Both laws aim at bringing justice to the victims. Both cases end up with orders from the
court. Both laws require judicial officer to preside the cases (Kelsen, 2007).
William, G. (2004) Civil Law vs Criminal Law. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2015, from
Kelsen, H. (2007). General theory of law and state. Clark, N.J: Lawbook Exchange.

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