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What are the Similarities and Differences between Civil and Criminal Laws?

The American legal system contains two important categories of law – civil and criminal law. Although the laws pertaining to both these categories are different, there is some common ground between the two. Here we will take a close look at the similarities and the differences between the two types of laws to make it easier for you to understand the US judiciary system.

Civil Vs. Criminal Laws: What are the Similarities?

Civil and criminal laws pertain to violation of federal or state rules. Both civil and criminal cases are fought in a court presided over by a judicial officer. In addition, the cases require a person that must move the court for an order. In both civil and criminal cases the actions are examined in the light of evidence and compared with the law.

If someone has violated a law, he or she receives judgment based on the circumstances surrounding the action. Whether civil or criminal, the case will end with a court order or sentence after witnesses have testified and evidence related to the case has been examined. The order of the court can be in the form of a fine, a prison, or both.

Differences between Civil and Criminal Laws

The main difference between civil and criminal laws is that the former involves crime against a specific party of person while the latter involves crime against the society, state, or the government. Generally, civil cases are brought by private individuals, while the criminal cases are brought by federal, state, or local government in response to violation of a rule.

A civil case pertains to some personal or business conflict. The case is filed in the court when one party feels wronged by the action of another. Common civil cases include child support, child custody, contract violations, property damage, personal injury, and divorce.

Murder cases, on the other hand, generally fall under the criminal law. The reason is that even though a single person is killed, the crime is considered as an offence against the society. Other examples of criminal cases include homicide, conspiracy and fraud, theft, manslaughter, sexual assault, conspiracy to commit crime, possession of drugs, etc.


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