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Law is divided into many categories such as environmental law, business law, employment law, criminal law, civil law, and many others. These are the few categories of law that the general public may be familiar with. It is especially important to understand the difference between criminal law and civil law.

The media and news have often covered news about criminal activities that are happening around the world, but these offenses do not always fall under criminal law. It is important to know the differences between each category of law.

There is a common misconception about criminal law. Just because someone has done some wrongdoings, it does not necessarily mean that the person will be judged under criminal law.  Depending on how deep your understanding of the law, more often than not people tend to misunderstand the small difference between criminal law and civil law. There are a few key differences between these two categories.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the difference between criminal law and civil law:


Society VS Individual


difference between criminal law and civil law


The biggest difference between criminal law and civil law is their definitions and the types of offenses that these two categories entail. Criminal law covers most criminal activities like sexual offense, theft, robbery, assault, murder, burglary, and manslaughter. The types of offenses that fall under criminal law tend to affect society as a whole, so criminal law exists to protect society.

While criminal law covers are meant to protect society, civil law is the complete opposite. Civil law protects individuals from personal injuries, contract breach, property damage, negligence, defamation. For example, when an employee is injured during work because the employer did not provide his employees with safety measures, the employer could be held guilty for negligence. This is because employers owe a duty of care to their employees. This is a perfect example of how civil law caters to protect individuals.


Burden of Proof


burden of proof


In court, the plaintiff or defendant is obligated to prove that they did or did not do something that they are accused of. This duty is called the burden of proof. There is a clear difference between the burden of proof in a case that involves civil law and a case that involves criminal law.

In a civil law case, the plaintiff has to prove that the accused is liable for the damages or mishaps. While in a criminal case, the defendant is the one who is accused and would have to prove their innocence in court.

We can see here that the difference between criminal law and civil law is the placement of the burden of proof. Under criminal law, the burden of proof falls to the defendant, and under civil law, the burden of proof is the liability of the plaintiff.






The penalty or punishment for each offense is different. When the defendant in a case involving civil law is ruled liable for the damages, the defendant would have to pay a penalty for the damages caused. As mentioned previously, civil law was made to protect an individual. Hence, the penalty for the defendant is to bring the plaintiff up to the level that they were before the damages caused by the defendant. Hence, the defendant is only held liable to ensure that the plaintiff could be at the same standing as they were before the damages.

The penalty in a criminal case is a lot more serious. The penalties could be in various forms such as fines, probation, and even incarceration. The penalty for criminal offenses depends on criminal law. A criminal case is generally more complicated than a civil case. One would need a skillful lawyer to handle criminal cases as not all lawyers have the expertise in criminal cases.




criminal law vs civil law


As an individual and a society, one should know the differences between criminal law and civil law. It is important to have a basic understanding of the laws to avoid getting into trouble. However, there comes a time where we get entangled with the law. In these times, it is always best to consult a criminal lawyer who understands the twists and turns of the law.