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Civil vs. Criminal Law

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Civil Law

Criminal Law

Definition

Civil Law refers to disputes between   individuals, organizations, or between the two. Criminal Law refers to disputes   between the state and its citizens. It deals with the legal punishment of criminal offences.

Burden of Proof

In civil law the burden of proof falls   on the plaintiff. The plaintiff must show on a balance of probabilities that   the defendant is probably guilty. In criminal law the burden of proof is on the state/government, represented by the Crown. The Crown must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

Examples

Landlord/tenant disputes, divorce   proceedings, child custody proceedings, property disputes, personal injury, etc. Theft, assault, robbery, drug trafficking, murder, etc.

Type of Punishment

Civil litigation usually involves some   type of compensation for injuries or damages. While they do not result in   loss of freedom, they may result in loss of privileges or fines. A guilty defendant is usually punished with fines and/or loss of freedom through jail or probation

Case Filed By

Private party Government

 

Cases

In civil law a case commences when a complaint is filed by a party. The party filing the complaint is called the plaintiff while the responding party is called the defendant. This process is called litigation. In this process, the plaintiff is asking the court to right a wrong, often in the form of compensation, usually monetary. In contrast, in criminal law, the case is filed by the government, represented by a Crown prosecutor, against the defendant. An individual can never file criminal charges against another person; an individual may report a crime, but only the government can file criminal charges in court.

 

Punishment

One of the greatest differences between civil and criminal law is the punishment. In criminal law, a person found guilty may be punished by incarceration, a fine, or probation. Whereas, in civil law, a losing defendant has to reimburse the plaintiff for any damages or injuries that were caused by the defendant. A criminal case is more serious than a civil case in that criminal defendants have more rights and protections than a civil defendant.

 

Burdens of Proof

In criminal law, the burden of proof always lies with government to prove that the defendant is guilty. The burden of proof never shifts to the defendant. On the other hand, in civil law, the burden of proof first lies with the plaintiff, and then with the defendant to refute the evidence presented by the plaintiff.

 

How the System Works

One can argue that criminal law deals with looking after public interests. It involves punishing and rehabilitating offenders, and protecting society. In most cases, if a charge has been properly presented and if there is evidence supporting it, the Government, not the person who complains of the incident, prosecutes it in the courts. On the other hand, civil law is about private disputes between individuals or between an individual and an organization or between organizations. Civil law deals with the harm, loss or injury to one party. A defendant in a civil case is found liable or not liable for damages, while in a criminal case a defendant may be found guilty or not guilty.

 


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