What’s the Difference Between a Criminal Lawyer and a Civil Lawyer … and Which Do You Need?

The field of law is pretty broad, and no one lawyer can be a master of everything. Often lawyers choose one area of law and specialize in it, so it is true to say that there are many types of lawyers. 

However, you may not need many of them in your lifetime. Instead, you will most likely interact with two types of lawyers; criminal lawyers and civil lawyers. 

If you are facing legal tussles for the first time, this guide can help you understand the difference between the two common types of lawyers and what situations you would require, one or the other.

Understanding Criminal and Civil Law

To better understand the difference between a criminal and a civil lawyer, it is best first to understand criminal and civil law. 

Criminal Law

Criminal law deals with acts or behaviors that are an offense to another entity, an individual, a state, or society. Such actions include murder, theft, assault, DUI, or tax evasion. 

A criminal case is initiated by the state or federal government through the prosecution and decided by a jury. However, there are situations where the judge could decide a case. For example, if it is a petty crime or the defendant waives their right to a jury trial.

The prosecution lawyer must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction. The defendant will face penalties as stipulated in law, including fines, probation, or jail time if convicted. And, what is a simple caution? Find out the meaning of cautioning here.

Criminal Lawyers Defend You if You’ve Been Charged With a Crime

The defendant in a criminal case has a right to legal representation. The courts will assign them one, especially if they cannot afford one. While a court-assigned lawyer is better than having none, the best idea is to hire one. 

One important thing you want to look for in a lawyer is the type of crime they specialize in. For example, if you are facing a sex crime charge, a lawyer with experience in sex crimes will be the best. 

You also want to pay attention to their geographical region of practice. For example, if your case is in a court in Monmouth, NJ, criminal lawyers in Monmouth County will be your best pick for several reasons. They will be easily accessible and better understand the region’s dynamics in criminal matters.

Civil Law

Civil law deals with actions that cause harm to another person. Unlike criminal law, a person does not have to act intentionally to face a civil lawsuit. The only requirement is that their actions or inaction harm another party, an individual, or a business entity. 

Examples of situations that could lead to a civil lawsuit include negligence that leads to injury or death, breach of contract, slander, and accidental property damage. 

Unlike criminal cases, a civil suit is initiated by the aggrieved party. Also, there is a lower standard of proof for civil cases than for criminal cases. Monetary compensation is the most common outcome if a case favors the complainant.

A Civil Lawyer Will Help You Navigate a Civil Case

Parties in a civil case do not enjoy the same rights to legal representation as criminal cases. The defendant and the claimant must hire an attorney or work without one, which is never a good idea. 

Like criminal law, you will need to find a lawyer who deals with the type of civil case you have. For example, if you are navigating a medical malpractice lawsuit, you will want to get a lawyer with experience in this field. For a breach of contract case, you will need a lawyer specializing in contracts. The same applies to other types of cases.