Understanding the Distinction: Criminal Law vs. Civil Law
The legal system serves as the bedrock of any society, providing a framework to resolve disputes and maintain order. Within this system, two fundamental branches of law prevail: criminal law and civil law. While both serve the purpose of ensuring justice, they have distinct characteristics and objectives.
Criminal law deals with offenses committed against society. Its primary objective is to punish individuals who have violated laws enacted to protect public welfare, safety and order. Crimes such as murder, theft, assault and fraud are fall under the domain of criminal law. In criminal cases, the state, represented by the government, prosecutes the accused individual. The burden of proof lies on the prosecution, who must demonstrate guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”. If found guilty, the defendant may face penalties such as imprisonment, fines, probation or even capital punishment depending on the severity of the offense.
Civil law on the other hand, pertains to legal disputes between individuals or entities. It focuses on addressing harm or injury caused to individuals’ rights or interests rather than a breach of public law. This encompasses various areas including contracts, property, torts, family law and personal injury cases. In a civil case, the plaintiff initiates legal action seeking compensation or a resolution for the harms suffered. The burden of proof in civil law is typically lower than in criminal law, as the plaintiff must prove their case based on a “preponderance of evidence”, showing that it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible.
Understanding the distinction between criminal law and civil law is essential. Getting advice from a legal professional is also important in order to know what kind of crimes one may be involved in. Knowing these will enable one to learn the future actions to be taken.