3 Differences Between Civil Law and Criminal Law

Going to court can feel like an overwhelming event, especially if the case is complex and full of details. Before you begin to feel frustrated from having to understand so many details, start with the basics: What type of case law will you or your attorney operate in? Whether it’s criminal or civil law makes a big difference in expectations and judgements you may face, so answer these three questions to help determine which best fits your case:


Are you required to have an attorney?

For civil cases, you are not required to consult an attorney or have one present. For criminal acts, you are legally required to have an attorney present (or make explicit that you’ll be representing yourself during the trial).


Is there a potential for a prison sentence?

While the decision of a court can vary from case to case, for the most part civil cases are resolved with a financial judgement whereas criminal cases can involve jail time, financial damages, or a combination of both. If you need more information about different types of sentences, check out this article for a more detailed explanation.


Is the crime considered to be against the State or the Individual?

The best example of this would be the case against OJ Simpson where he was found not guilty in the criminal trial, but was found guilty in the civil case the Goldman family brought against Simpson. Criminal cases are considered acts against the State or society, such as murder, while civil cases are considered acts against the individual.


Whether your case is civil or criminal, it’s always best to consult with your attorney to determine the best strategy for your case. Remember to ask questions and make sure you have a clear understanding so that you and your attorney can make the process as smooth as possible or give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you discuss options for your upcoming trial.

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