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In the broadest sense, there are two types of cases – a criminal case or a civil case.  Any time a person faces a criminal charge, they need a criminal lawyer.  However, different types of civil cases require a different type of civil lawyer.

Criminal Case

Civil Case

– offenses against the State law

– Guilty/Not Guilty

– Imprisonment

– Dispute or Disagreement between the individuals

– Liable/Not Liable

– Compensation

Criminal case:

In a criminal case, it is “The People” that bring the criminal charges against the defendant. The victim of the crime does not bring the criminal case.  The law looks at the crime as an act that is against the state and based on the evidence, a jury decides if the person is guilty or not. Common crimes include murder, sexual assault, rape, robbery, etc. Some other crimes include smuggling, drug possession, printing and circulating fake money, etc. For a person to be found guilty of any of these crimes, the jury must be convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime.  This is a very high burden.

Civil case:

In this case, the victim comes to court looking for compensation for any sort of damage suffered by them due to some other person. Therefore, it is the victim who sues the wrongdoer.  Common types of civil cases include personal injury, employment violations, and civil rights violations. However, bankruptcy law, trust and wills, trademark infringement, and divorce cases are all “civil” cases.   Therefore, a victim of a car accident would not want a divorce lawyer to represent them.  Instead, they need a civil lawyer that handles car accident cases.  Similarly, a lawyer that handles civil rights cases would not be the appropriate lawyer to handle a divorce case.

Below are some major difference points between the two:


Criminal Case

Civil Case

– Here govt. takes the case against the one who committed a crime

– The govt. punishes the one who is responsible for the crime to make sure that people respect the law and order.

– Here the person who suffered the loss takes the case against the one who caused it

– The victim is given compensation by the other party to make up for their losses.

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Criminal Case

Civil Case

– In a criminal case, whether by way of a verdict or a settlement (i.e. a plea bargain), the Defendant will generally serve jail time or probation. – A defendant who is found guilty in a civil case can only be forced to pay compensation.  A person can never be jailed for being found guilty in a civil case.


Criminal Case

Civil Case

– Here the government is always represented by the lawyers only. They are called criminal attorneys. – Both the persons, who is accused and who sued, hire their own lawyer to represent them in the court. They are called civil rights lawyer.


Criminal Case

Civil Case

– Here the duration of filing the case depends on how effective are the evidence, if they are enough to prove the crime then immediately the case can be filed. – Here the timeline depends on the nature of the case, e.g.: -If someone reported for defamation then it should be ideally filed within a year.

-Also, sometimes the sufferer cannot bear the losses for long and want immediate compensation, so they file the case at the earliest.


Criminal Case

Civil Case

– Here the evidence must show that the defendant was guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” – Here the person who files the case must prove that the defendant was “more likely than not” responsible for the Plaintiff’s injuries.


Criminal Case

Civil Case

– Usually, a victim is the only prime evidence in these cases. – The person who filed the case must prove in court that the damages incurred to him are all because of the person who is sued.

-Also, must prove that due to that fault only so much damage was incurred, thus the role of civil rights attorney in Los Angeles is very crucial.

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These blogs are meant purely for educational purposes. They contain only general information about legal matters. They are not legal advice, and should not be treated as such. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult with an attorney.