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What are main differences between criminal law and civil law?

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2012-09-11 07:40:34
2012-09-11 07:40:34

Quite simply, criminal law deals with violations of statutory crime and its punishment, civil law deals with non-criminal things such as contracts/business, and things such as divorce, etc. You can be charged under both criminal and civil proceedings though. A perfect example is OJ Simpson being aquitted of criminal charges but being found guilty in civil proceedings. Probably the biggest difference between the two is what is called "BURDEN OF PROOF"

In criminal proceedings the burden is "BEYOND ALL REASONABLE DOUBT" for someone to be convicted. This means that the evidence points substantially towards guilt and there is little to no question of guilt. For a jury in this case you would need everyone in agreement or the case is a mistrial. Unaminity is the key.

In civil proceedings all that is required is "preponderance of evidence" which means that if it is found that it was more likely than not that an incident occured then you can be convicted. This kind of proceeding is really a "who has the best evidence" type of case. Only a majority of jury members decision is needed in this case.


1. Criminal Law cases must prove the person's guilt beyond reasonable doubt, whilst civil cases must be proved on the balance of probability

2. The main difference however is who the law is aimed at.

Theoretically criminal law is a considered to be harming all members of society. Consequently, the victim of the criminal case is all of society; hence the case is brought on behalf of the police and prosecution on behalf of society. In contrast to this, civil/private law, the offence is committed against the individual :)

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Very basically, criminal law is when a person is charged with a criminal act and civil law is between indivudual parties.

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The main difference between a civil and criminal procedure is one of the penalty seved. In criminal proceedings, you can serve jail time, where as in civil proceedings, you can only be fined.

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The main difference in civil law is to do with property ownership. In criminal law, there are only two verdicts in a trial in England, Guilty or not guilty. In Scotland you could also be found 'Not Proven'

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