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The Difference between Civil Law and Criminal Law

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The Difference between Civil Law and Criminal Law One way of looking at criminal law is that it is dealing with something of public awareness. For instance, the public has awareness in seeing that people are protected from being robbed or assaulted. These are legal problems that fall into the criminal law. Criminal law involves punishing and rehabilitating offenders, and protecting the public. Since the public has an interest in having criminal law, we give the government the power to put it in place and enforce it. The police and Crown Prosecutors are hired by the government to put the criminal law into effect. Public funds are used to pay for these services. If you are the injured party of a crime, you report it to the police and they have the duty to investigate. They arrest and charge the suspect. In most cases, if a charge has been properly laid and if there is evidence supporting it, the Crown Prosecutor, not the person who complains of the incident, prosecutes it in the courts. ...read more.


This is not the case in civil law. Civil law is about private disputes between individuals or between individuals and organizations. Civil matters include areas such as contract law, family law, tort law, property law and labour law. The person suing for a wrong has the burden of proving their case on a "balance of probabilities." This means that a judge or jury must believe their story and evidence more than the defendant's version. They do not need to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil disputes usually involve some harm, loss or injury to one party or their property. Unlike criminal law; however, civil law is primarily involved with compensating victims. If a civil action is successful, the defendant will be responsible for the wrongful action. While a defendant in a criminal case may be found "guilty" or "not guilty," a defendant in a civil case is said to be "liable" or "not liable" for damages. ...read more.


Specifically, the definition of first degree murder in the context of the O.J. case requires that the act be done deliberately and with a great deal of malice directed toward the victim. And to convict in the criminal court, the case against the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case for wrongful death, on the other hand, you have to show only that the defendant was legally responsible for the death. But, to get punitive damages, as the plaintiffs did in the O.J. case, you have to show that the defendant acted recklessly. The burden of proof in a civil case is preponderance of the evidence -- a much lesser burden than is required in a criminal case. So, while a criminal jury might reasonably fail to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and acquit the accused, a civil jury might also reasonably find by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she acted recklessly and should be held civilly accountable for the death. ...read more.

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