Civil and Criminal Law Differences


Some clients may not know that the same act can subject them to both civil and criminal liability. Our U.S. legal system does in fact have both civil
laws to provide remedies to injured parties and criminal sanctions to punish wrongdoers. This article briefly discusses distinctions in criminal and civil law, so you can better understand each system.

Different Purpose:

Civil law generally pertains to duties and disputes between individual people or organizations, or between individual people/organizations and the government. The purpose of civil law is to help resolve those disputes and provide remedies to those damaged by violations of the law. An example of a civil law suite is personal injury law, workers compensation law or a business law dispute. For this kind of case you need a Tulsa attorneys that practices civil law.

Crimes, although they impact individual people, are offenses against society as a whole, not just the individuals themselves. The goal of criminal law is to maintain societal stability by defining what is acceptable and not acceptable, to punish offenders, and to deter criminal acts.

Different Parties For Civil v. Criminal Law:

Civil cases are different than criminal and are brought by individuals or organizations like corporations seeking a remedy. When an individual files a lawsuit, he or she is the Plaintiff. The person sued is the Defendant. Generally, individuals pay their own legal fees and costs, unless one of the parties receives an award of attorney fees.

Criminal cases are prosecuted by the state or federal government, not the victims of the crime. The government is generally represented by a public official, such as an Attorney General or District Attorney. The person being prosecuted is still called the Defendant. Tax dollars fund criminal prosecutions, and sometimes defense costs as well, if the accused cannot afford counsel of their own and must utilize the services of a court-appointed attorney/public defender.

Different Burdens of Proof In Civil v. Criminal Law

Because criminal sanctions are harsher than civil remedies, criminal defendants are under a higher standard of proof, and the burden of proof is on the government to prove that the defendant is guilty. In order to prove guilt, the government must establish guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Generally, a jury’s verdict must be unanimous.

In civil cases, the plaintiff typically has the burden to demonstrate liability, but the burden can shift to the defendant in certain circumstances, in which case the defendant must demonstrate they are not liable. The standard of proof in civil cases is not “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Rather, there is a slightly lesser standard that requires the plaintiff to prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence.” In contrast to criminal cases, jury verdicts do not typically need to be unanimous. This may help explain why some defendants are not guilty in a criminal case, but are liable in a civil case.

Different Outcomes For Different Cases

In civil cases, if the defendant is liable, the Plaintiff receives a remedy. This typically comes in the form of damages to monetarily compensate the Plaintiff for harm done, but equitable remedies like injunctions do exist. Sometimes, punitive damages may award, but civil defendants do not face punishments like jail time. Criminal defendants that are guilty receive criminal sentences, which vary depending on the crime. Criminal sanctions include fines, probation, incarceration, restitution, community service, and in extreme cases, the death penalty. For this type of case you will need an attorney that appreciates the civil and criminal law differences.

Tulsa Attorneys Near You

By practicing both criminal law and civil law we offer you a distinct advantage. The civil and criminal law differences give us a complete perspective of the legal system. The advantage for us translates in to an advantage to you. Get a Free consultation with a Tulsa lawyers near you

Tulsa's Local Criminal Defense Lawyers

Law ScaleAre you looking for Tulsa attorneys who will fight aggressively for you? Our team of criminal defense attorneys have the experience needed in Oklahoma law to secure the outcome you deserve.

Call us today for a free consultation 918-743-2233 or contact us online.