Criminal vs. Civil Law: How To Choose Your Specialty

Justice studies is a broad field with many career paths. Consider concentrating on a career in criminal or civil law if you intend to pursue a degree in justice studies. Both options provide satisfying professional opportunities that would enable you to have a positive impact on your community.

Civil laws, on the other hand, deal with people’s private rights. When someone’s rights have been violated or when there is a disagreement with another person or an organization, civil laws are used. Some civil law cases are resolved outside of court, for example, by a third-party mediator. Alternatively, lawsuits may be resolved through a non-criminal trial.

Civil law deals with the disputes between individuals, organizations, or between the two, in which compensation is awarded to the victim. Criminal law is the body of law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses.

What is civil law?

When one private person or business files a lawsuit against another private person or business, civil attorneys represent those parties. In these situations, it is not necessary for the defendant to have acted improperly with malice; rather, it is sufficient that their actions hurt the plaintiff. Additionally, a different standard of proof must be met in these kinds of cases. Professionals must establish civil cases through credible evidence If the evidence proves that something is more than 50% likely to have happened, the judge will rule in that persons favor

What is criminal law?

Criminal attorneys either prosecute or defend clients who are accused of committing crimes. These are cases where someone has intentionally broken a law. In these cases, the defendant is typically a private citizen, and the plaintiff is the government. Prosecutors must prove criminal cases beyond a reasonable doubt. In the event that the prosecution fails to satisfy that burden of proof, defendants should not be found guilty.

Types of criminal law cases

In a criminal case, the state or the federal government may bring charges. Three categories are used to categorize these cases in order to determine the type of court and potential punishment. The way that these cases are classified are:

Offense type

Cases are classified by experts as either violent or nonviolent. Unlike nonviolent crimes, violent crimes involve the use of force or the threat of force. Legal experts classify violent crimes into four different offense types: aggravated assault, robbery, murder, and non-negligent manslaughter. Public intoxication, shoplifting, drug possession, and embezzlement are some examples of nonviolent crimes.


Crime can be categorized as white-collar, property, enterprise, and public order crimes. White-collar crimes are typically nonviolent, financial crimes. Burglary and other types of vandalism are examples of property crimes that can be violent or not. Enterprise crimes can be violent or nonviolent, and they combine legal business activity with illegal activity. For instance, opening a restaurant where customers can legally purchase food while also producing counterfeit goods is an example of an enterprise crime. Crimes against the public order make up a sizable portion of criminal behavior that violates moral laws. Prostitution and drug offenses are a couple of examples of public order offenses.


After offense type and classification, professionals categorize crimes by severity. These categories are infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Depending on how serious the crime was, it will be classified, with felonies being the most serious. Typically, juries and judges assess the seriousness of a crime based on the defendant’s intentions and other factors.

Types of civil law cases

Civil court professionals deal with a wide variety of cases. Some of the most common cases involve:


When someone violates a law, a statute, or prevents another person from acting in accordance with their rights, it is a tort. Torts include things like negligence, battery, trespassing, assault, and defamation. An illustration of a negligence case would be one involving personal injury, such as when a company negligently fails to remove snow or ice from its premises and a customer slips and falls on the ice. These are typically the civil court cases that are most frequently seen.


When one or both spouses in a marriage decide they no longer want to be married, a divorce occurs. Typically, the spouse who initiates the divorce is referred to as the plaintiff, and the other spouse would be the defendant. Some people opt to resolve their divorces outside of court; in this case, each party selects a lawyer to represent them, and the divorce is resolved through mediation.

Contract disputes

Contract disputes occur when parties to a contract disagree about the original purpose of the agreement or when one of the parties fails to uphold their end of the bargain. One type of contract dispute is a breach of contract, in which one party alleges that the other failed to carry out the obligations placed on them, as in the case of a contractor failing to finish a renovation as promised.

Class action cases

In a class-action lawsuit, numerous parties sue a party that caused them harm collectively. Although the majority of these lawsuits are brought by individuals against businesses, the government or a government agency may also be named as the defendant. A group of workers suing their employer for unpaid wages from the past is an illustration of a class-action lawsuit.

Equitable claims

An equitable claims case may involve more than just money. A judge may order a defendant in this kind of case to take further action In this kind of case, the defendant is barred from doing something in the future or is forced to take some action. If the defendant was constructing something on the defendant’s property, for instance, the court might order the defendant to stop what they were doing in an equitable case. The court may order the defendant to stop construction work and demolish any existing structures.

Differences between civil and criminal lawyers

The types of cases that civil and criminal attorneys work on and the types of courts in which they try their cases are the main distinctions between the two types of attorneys. Although the duties of criminal and civil attorneys may be similar, the clients they represent and the outcomes of the cases they work on are very different. This is so that they can deal with crimes that are more serious.

Both types of attorneys conduct case research, considering comparable cases and rulings, speaking with parties involved in the case, gathering information and evidence, drafting papers, and, if necessary, arguing their cases in court. The majority of attorneys attempt to achieve justice for their clients outside of the courtroom by reaching a deal, plea bargain, or settlement before a trial.

Tips for deciding between criminal and civil law

Being a criminal or civil lawyer has differences in case types and types of clients that are represented. You should consider these elements when deciding which exercises to practice. Here are some ideas to consider when choosing a profession:

What is the difference between civil cases and criminal cases?


What is the main difference between criminal and civil law?

Criminal cases are typically prosecuted by state officials, whereas civil cases are conducted between plaintiffs, or private parties or organizations, and this is a key distinction between civil and criminal law.

What are 3 differences between civil and criminal cases?

When it comes to how cases are started (who can file charges or lawsuits), how cases are decided (by a judge or a jury), what types of punishment or penalties may be imposed, what standards of proof must be met, and what legal protections may be available to the defendant, criminal law and civil law are different.

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