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.
The year of 2017 saw a huge swell in public protests stemming from racial unrest and displeasure with systemic injustices targeted at certain groups of people. Since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, the grassroots activist group Black Lives Matter has staged public protests, marches, and social media campaigns designed to bring awareness to the plight of people of color against law enforcement and the criminal justice system. On the other end of the spectrum, though, white nationalists and white supremacists have also taken to the streets with torches to protest the immigration policies they view as lax and the perceived vilification of white and caucasian Americans. Each group independently caught pushback from both the media and their communities, who bemoaned the damage to public property and the need for increased crowd control and first responders.
These two forces came to a head in Charlottesville, when a clash between a white nationalist group and a combination of Antifa (anti-facist) and Black Lives Matter protesters ended in fist-fights, property damage and destruction, arson, and the death of a young white woman.
Sympathizers of both Black Lives Matter and White Nationalism have accused the other side of hurling “hate speech” and inciting race-based violence against the other. Both claim the other uses inflammatory verbiage, divisive rhetoric, and skewed-if-not-wholly false information to debase the other and forward their own agenda. To that end, speakers or activists considered too political on one side or another have been barred from speaking on various college campuses. While the administrators of these institutions of higher learning tend to call on “security concerns” when prohibiting “extremists” from either side from speaking on campuses, many believe that these higher ed institutions are sheltering their students and suppressing certain viewpoints in violation of the first amendment.
Calls to “stop hate speech” on both sides have reinvigorated first amendment fanatics who are nervous about how far we’ll be able to limit free speech in the name of reducing violence. The first amendment as it’s written prohibits the US government from passing laws that infringe on the people’s right to free speech. We have made some important caveats, though, the classic example being that a person can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater to purposefully incite panic. We also prohibit organizing terrorist threats against the US.
While we can’t legally stop people from saying what they want, the administrators of some of the biggest social media websites can claim that it’s against their terms of service to post racially insensitive or discriminatory information or to actively champion such causes as ethnic cleansing or white supremacy. Unlike the government, social media platforms are private businesses who can set terms and conditions under which they will permit users to utilize their services. Twitter and various white nationalist groups have been caught up in a cat-and-mouse game over how to ensure that twitter’s crawlers catch white nationalists and only white nationalists, but their algorithm isn’t great, and their terms aren’t clear.
The future of free speech as it pertains to potentially offensive and inflammatory information is yet to be determined, but as our society proves more and more divided, we’ll have to come to a new truce sooner rather than later to avoid more deadly clashes.
You get a call from your mother that you’ve been dreading. Your favorite “Uncle John” has passed away. To your dismay you ask about the funeral plans and if there is anything you can do to help. As the time comes to go through belongings, an unsent text message to your mother was found on his phone, stating he was leaving his small family fortune in you, as you were always his favorite. Now, typically family fortunes are written in bidding wills. So, does that text message constitute as a binding will?
Real Life Case
In Australia, a similar case occurred. A man passed away with an unsent text message to his brother, leaving him everything. However, the wife argued that it did not count as her late husband’s will. Going all the way to Queensland Supreme Court, that text message changed everything.
What is in a Will?
What determines the validity of a will? A last will and testament are legally enforceable and must meet requirements specific to a person’s state, in the United States. A few of those requirements have to do with legal age, witnesses, and must have some sort of signature. Although most wills are written down in some sort of documentation, “nuncupative” wills are said out loud with at least two witnesses.
Back to Brisbane
In the end of the Australian court system case mentioned earlier, the text message was declared by a judge, a valid last will and testament– leaving the brother and the nephew with everything the deceased had appointment them just like the text message stated.
Like in the United States today, in Queensland, a formal typed or handwritten will used to be required by law. However, changes made in 2006 loosened acceptable wills to a more informal approach, which leads to how a drafted text message was a legal will.
As we progress into a digital age, there is no question that electronic last will and testaments will become legal. Wills were formed where most people easily had pen and paper at hand. Today, we all have a heavy reliance on mobile devices and tablets, replacing the necessity of pen and paper.
The English Law Commission already has made a proposal for electronic wills. It proposes that voicemails, text messages, emails, videos and other forms of electronic statements should serve as a valid will.
This issue of validity among electronic wills is not only something debated in Queensland, Australia and England, but is something we can expect to see come with a digital age in the United States, and other countries as well as the years progress.
Abogado Aly Civil Law:
Civil Law consists a group of laws that govern disputes between individuals in such areas as contracts, property, and family law. Civil Law is anything that is not criminal or public law. There are breach of contract cases where one makes a deal, signs a contract and does not follow the contract obligations that were laid out. There are consumer rights cases where you are protected as a consumer from businesses trying to take advantage of you. Lastly, there are construction law cases with lien matters, landlord-tenant matters and more.
At the offices of Abogado Aly, each attorney has their own specialization; however, they meet everyday to ensure that each case is handled by a group of professionals with varying specializations so that all attorneys at this office can look at each case from multiple angles. Adriana Rodriguez’s specialization is in Civil Law, and the aim of this blog is to inform readers on Civil Law in the news today.
For more information about our office, check out AbogadoAly.com