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Difference between Criminal Law and Civil Law

The main difference between criminal law and civil law are:-

difference between civil law and criminal law

According to William Geldart, Introduction to English Law 146 (D.C.M. Yardley ed., 9th ed. 1984). “The difference between civil law and criminal law turns on the difference between two different objects which law seeks to pursue – redress or punishment. The object of civil law is the redress of wrongs by compelling compensation or restitution: the wrongdoer is not punished, he only suffers so much harm as is necessary to make good the wrong he has done. The person who has suffered gets a definite benefit from the law, or at least he avoids a loss. On the other hand, in the case of crimes, the main object of the law is to punish the wrongdoer, to give him and others a strong inducement not to commit same or similar crimes, to reform him if possible and perhaps to satisfy the public sense that wrongdoing ought to meet with retribution.”

Civil law and criminal law are two broad and separate entities of law with separate sets of laws and punishments.

The following comparison chart will help you to understand the difference between civil law and criminal law.

Civil Law Criminal Law
Definition Civil law deals with the disputes between individuals, organizations, or between the two, in which compensation is awarded to the victim. Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses.
Burden of proof “Preponderance of evidence” Burden of proof is initially on the plaintiff and then switches to the defendants. “Beyond a reasonable doubt”: Burden of proof is always on the state or government.
Case filed By private party. By government or state.
Type of punishment A defendant in civil litigation is never incarcerated and never executed. Losing defendant in civil litigation only reimburses the plaintiff for losses caused by the defendant’s behavior. Either party (plaintiff or defendant) can be found at fault. A guilty defendant is punished by either incarceration in a jail or fine paid to the government, or, in exceptional cases, the death penalty. Crimes are divided into two broad classes: Felonies and Misdemeanors. Defendant can be found guilty or not.
Right of Appeal Either party may appeal a decision in a civil suit. Only the defendant may appeal a court ruling in a criminal case. The prosecution cannot appeal if the defendant is found not guilty.
Examples Landlord or tenant disputes, divorce proceedings, Tort, Breach of Contract, etc. Theft (by deception or unlawful taking), assault, robbery, murder, rape, trafficking in controlled substances, alcohol intoxication, etc
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