What is the Difference Between Criminal Law and Civil Law?

Criminal law involves an illegal action, such as 抢劫.
Criminal law involves an illegal action, such as 抢劫.

Many people are familiar with 刑法 because of the media coverage surrounding infamous cases, but people are less knowledgeable about 民法, or 侵权法. Typically, unless a person is an 律师 or personally involved in the court case, the differences between the two types of law can be obtuse. There are several distinctions between them, 然而, including the type of crime, who files the lawsuit, 惩罚, and the burden of proof. 基本上, 刑法 is for violations of statutory crime and punishment, and 民法 deals with non-criminal disagreements.

Civil law involves personal disputes, such as divorce cases.
Civil law involves personal disputes, such as divorce cases.

Criminal law usually involves distinctly illegal behavior, and 民法 involves disagreements when no law has been broken. Examples of criminal cases include 抢劫, murder, battery, or assault crimes. Civil cases typically encompass disputes between property owners and tenants, 离婚, contract disagreements, real property issues and intellectual property disputes. In criminal cases, the government always files the litigation or lawsuit. 在民法中 原告 files the lawsuit and usually is a private party such as a person or corporation.

Books containing codes of law.
Books containing codes of law.

Some 律师s and lawmakers believe that the notion of punishment is the main difference between the two types of law. Punishment for a criminal offense is very different, because the 被告 can be punished by incarceration, fines, or even execution. In the United States, statutory crimes are divided into two main categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors usually have a maximum sentence of a one-year incarceration, and felonies usually have a minimum of a one-year incarceration.

在民法中 "loser" of the case typically has to reimburse the other party financial for losses or other damages. There also can be punitive damages awarded in 民法, which consist of making the 被告 an example to deter similar future behavior. These types of damages are possible when the 被告 has been proven to have a malicious intent, 总值 疏忽, or a willful disregard of the 原告’s rights.

The burden of proof also differs greatly between 民法 and 刑法. 在民法中 burden of proof is on the 原告 at first but sometimes can shift to the 被告. 也, if the judge or jury believes that the evidence favors the 原告 with at least a 50% probability, the 原告 wins the case. This is very different from criminal cases, which require the judges or juries to be certain beyond a 合理的怀疑 — essentially 98 or 99% sure — that the 被告s are guilty. 在这种情况下, the burden of proof rests solely on the prosecutor and typically does not switch to the 被告 at any point in the litigation.




SauteePan-I remember that case. OJ Simpson hired a criminal defense law firm of Robert Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, F.Lee Bailey, Robert Kardasheian and Barry Scheck the DNA expert.

It was said that he hired over seven 刑法yers for his criminal defense from 刑法 firms all over the country. This was dubbed by the media as the "Trial of the century."

然而, when the case was brought to civil court, the jury found him guilty and awarded the Goldman family $30 million dollars. This judgment allowed the judge to garnish any future earnings from the O.J. Simpson estate, but the Goldman family could not access his retirement pension from the N.F.L.


Sunny27-Sometimes the 被告 can be found not guilty in a criminal case and found guilty in a civil case.

The reason for this is that the burden of proof is different. For example, in the O.J. criminal case in which he was accused of killing his wife and his wife's friend, the jury found him not guilty. But in the civil case he was found guilty.


The biggest difference between criminal defense law and civil defense law is that the standard of guilt is distinctly lower in a civil case.

In a civil case the 被告 is found guilty if the preponderance of the evidence proves it. This can simply mean the 被告 was more than 50% likely to have committed the offense.

While in a criminal case, the state has to prove that there is a 99% chance that this person committed the crime.

    • Criminal law involves an illegal action, such as 抢劫.
      : yanmingzhang
      Criminal law involves an illegal action, such as 抢劫.
    • Civil law involves personal disputes, such as divorce cases.
      By: Ermolaev Alexandr
      Civil law involves personal disputes, such as divorce cases.
    • Books containing codes of law.
      : zimmytws
      Books containing codes of law.