Civil and Criminal Law
The major distinction when it comes to the law is deciphering if it’s criminal or civil law. Civil and Criminal Law are two different entities and govern different issues within the law. Most attorneys specialize in one or the other. In summary, civil law is between private individuals (or entities) who have complaints and disputes. Criminal law is made to govern crimes that result in government prosecution.
Criminal law is very different from civil litigation. This is because the violations are of different scopes, how one files charges is different, and burdens of duty/proof are not equal. In criminal cases, the authority of the state or the police files charges against an individual. The government is the body that enforces criminal laws. Thus, an individual who feels criminally wronged cannot initiate a criminal proceeding.
The government is represented by a prosecutor and the perpetrator is represented by a defense attorney. In the United States, a public defense lawyer is awarded to the defendant if they cannot afford to hire an attorney. In order to determine a guilty or not guilty ruling, a jury or judge receives evidence and arguments to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. Criminal law has a mechanism that speeds up a case: plea bargains. Plea bargains allow the defendant to admit to a guilty sentence so they receive less severe punishment.
Civil litigation is when an individual (or any entity besides the government) files a lawsuit against another part. The entity who files the case is called the plaintiff. A plaintiff will argue and prove that the defendant violated an agreement or rights.