The legal industry is a dynamic force in which is primarily to protect citizens and uphold the law of this country. There are many areas of law a lawyer can practice. From civil law to personal injury, criminal, family, and more– lawyers have their own area/s of practice. To the public though, the lines between which area of practice a court case falls can be a bit blurry. For your knowledge, here are the key differences between a civil court case and a criminal court case.
When it comes to civil court cases and criminal court cases, there are several differences that separate the two. Civil cases involve a party filing suit against another party for a private matter. Criminal cases are those that are actions considered to be harmful to society.
Civil court cases generally involve a person or a company (sometimes even the government) filing a claim that another person or entity has not fulfilled a contract, essentially. These types of court cases are brought forth into state and federal courts.
As an example: if a person were to receive a credit card through Capital One and failed to make payments on time, defaulted on their credit card and it went to collections, Capital One could seek payment by filing a suit against the person.
Credit card companies have very strict and clear contracts that state they can sue for damages at any point in the collection process. Generally, when it comes to credit cards, the company itself will utilize a third party company that acts as the attorney or one of the “parties” in the civil suit to seek payment for what is owed.
The key difference between a civil case and a criminal case is that a person who ends up being accused of any crime would be charged in a formal manner. For felonies, these are known as “indictments.” For misdemeanors, these are known as “information.”
If the crime is at a federal level, then the United States Attorney’s Office would be where the prosecution stems from. For state crimes, that state’s attorney’s office would prosecute. There are obviously different types of criminal cases such as kidnapping, murder, wire fraud, robbery, driving while intoxicated, etc.
When it comes to financial crimes such as insider trading or wire fraud, those are crimes that would be prosecuted at the federal level. Crimes such as murder, robbery, and driving while intoxicated would be prosecuted at the state level.