Differences Between Civil Lawyers And Criminal Lawyers

by Greg Prosmushkin on May. 14, 2021


Summary: The government prohibits crimes, which are considered to be public wrongs. In case of federal or state crime, a criminal lawyer comes in to handle cases for defendants accused of committing the act. Civil lawyers play a different role. In the United States, the judiciary has two primary branches. One is the criminal justice system, and the other is the civil justice system.

Differences Between Civil Lawyers And Criminal Lawyers


The government prohibits crimes, which are considered to be public wrongs. In case of federal or state crime, a criminal lawyer comes in to handle cases for defendants accused of committing the act. Civil lawyers play a different role. In the United States, the judiciary has two primary branches. One is the criminal justice system, and the other is the civil justice system. 


Further, civil law is divided into different segments because it is so broad. Some of the most common ones include property law, contract law, personal injury law, and family law. The criminal defense attorney NJ trusts would not handle these types of cases, however.


Civil and Criminal Law: The Major Differences


Criminal law deals with actions and behavior that are considered harmful to society, and civil law is related to disputes among individual parties and do not necessarily involve people who have broken the law. There are many vital differences we can list out between civil law and criminal law. Here are some differences between what civil lawyers and criminal lawyers do:

  • Definition:

Civil lawyers handle cases that are the result of disputes between individuals. In some cases, courts resolve the disputes by awarding money and, in other cases, some plaintiffs receive non-monetary remedies for the other party’s actions. 

Criminal lawyers will handle cases that are related to offenses that are deemed to be crimes. They consider statutory laws, and these crimes are legally punishable as per the government. 


  • Who files the case?

Any private party can file a civil case, and the parties that file these claims are called plaintiffs. Here, the plaintiff files the case or sues another person who is named as a defendant. 

In the case of a criminal offense, the government is the party that brings the charge, whether the federal government or the state government. In these cases, the accused party is called the defendant, and attorneys at the prosecutor's office will represent the government in the action. 


  • Their goals:

The goal of civil law and civil cases is restitution. The primary goal is to restore the position of the plaintiff as they were before the incident giving rise to the action occurred. The plaintiff should go back to the position they were in before that harm or injury. In these cases, the defendant is required to pay the damages once they are found negligent or liable. 


Criminal law and criminal cases deal with offenses that occur against society. The primary goals of criminal justice are punishment and deterrence. After an individual is convicted of a crime, in some cases, the defendant may face incarnation at sentencing, fines, or even the death penalty.


Even though there are many differences between civil lawyers and criminal defense attorneys, these distinctions may not be apparent to an untrained person. For example, even in some civil cases, the jury can award punitive damages and punish the defendant’s behavior or actions. Another example is the fact that, even when there is a civil lawsuit, if there is wrongful death like violence or murder, the government can also pursue a criminal case against that person.


It is important to understand that civil and criminal actions are not necessarily mutually exclusive, because the same event or incident can result in both a civil trial or a criminal trial, but not at the same time. Priority is always given to criminal cases to go first in courts. 


Types of Cases That a Civil Lawyer Can Handle

As stated previously, civil law comprises a wide range of subjects, so there is an extensive list of case types that a civil lawyer may handle. Some of these types of cases include:

  • Family law

  • Civil l rights

  • Contract disputes

  • Corporate law

  • Products liability

  • Personal injury

  • Wills and probate

  • Employment law

  • Bankruptcy law

  • Tax law

Along with damages, civil orders and civil injunctions for performance may also be involved in civil remedies. Here, these are orders that stop specific actions and behavior by a party. 


Cases That Criminal Lawyer Can Handle

One of the most important things to note about criminal cases is that the accused is presumed to be innocent, and reaching a guilty verdict demands evidence for proving the same. Reasonable doubt is simply not enough to hold someone criminally responsible. Even though the victim is never considered a party in a criminal case, the victim’s interests are considered as the government is mounts a case and charges forward to convict the defendant. 


Examples of civil law cases include: 

  • Property damage

  • Breach of contract

  • Defamation

  • Bankruptcy

  • Custody disputes


Examples of criminal law cases include:

  • Possession of a controlled substance

  • Assault

  • Obstruction of justice

  • Conspiracy

  • Homicide


Civil Law and Criminal Law: How an Attorney Approaches the Case


There is a significant difference between how criminal and civil lawyers will approach a case, including with regard to litigation strategy, rules of evidence, burden of proof, and overall philosophy. 


The main difference can be found in how the lawyers may approach negotiation in the case at hand. When we consider civil suits, we can find more flexibility in finding an appropriate resolution. But in criminal cases, negotiations have much less room for changes, especially with regard to sentencing and verdicts. Even in a plea deal, in the case of criminal law, the justice for the victim is exclusively at the mercy of the court. However, in civil cases, the parties may reach a civil settlement that can occur outside of judicial review. 


The differences between the two types of lawyers include the types of cases they handle and how they approach the cases for their clients. DUI cases have become very common, and those accused should seek representation from a criminal defense lawyer. You can approach a DUI attorney New Jersey trusts if you need quality legal representation. Our experienced legal team can assist you with all types of criminal cases. 



Meta- Knowing when to consult the criminal defense attorney NJ trust is very important. To learn difference between civil and criminal lawyers, this blog can be a great read. 

Legal Articles Additional Disclaimer

Lawyer.com is not a law firm and does not offer legal advice. Content posted on Lawyer.com is the sole responsibility of the person from whom such content originated and is not reviewed or commented on by Lawyer.com. The application of law to any set of facts is a highly specialized skill, practiced by lawyers and often dependent on jurisdiction. Content on the site of a legal nature may or may not be accurate for a particular state or jurisdiction and may largely depend on specific circumstances surrounding individual cases, which may or may not be consistent with your circumstances or may no longer be up-to-date to the extent that laws have changed since posting. Legal articles therefore are for review as general research and for use in helping to gauge a lawyer's expertise on a matter. If you are seeking specific legal advice, Lawyer.com recommends that you contact a lawyer to review your specific issues. See Lawyer.com's full Terms of Use for more information.