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When you are dealing with a charge against you, you might ask yourself whether it matters if something counts as a civil case or a criminal case. 

Knowing the difference between the two can help you better understand the legal implications for each one. 

Duty to Others

One of the most important characteristics of a civil case is the fact that a legal duty was not performed for someone. This leads to a situation where the plaintiff, otherwise known as the person suing, asks for compensation for this issue. 

In contrast, a criminal case arises when you have committed a crime against society. It can either be a smaller misdemeanor or a more serious crime that typically comes with a larger sentence, also known as an indictment. 

Two Types

In a civil case, either a business or an individual can bring a lawsuit. Both federal and state courts deal with interpersonal issues. These range from a business providing a smaller amount of goods than agreed upon to a paying customer and failing to make amends, or an individual suing an entity for infringement of a constitutional right. 

Both these situations fall under the umbrella of civil suits. You may also sue for damages if there are monetary complications that arise from unfair treatment. 


Some civil issues lead to criminal cases, depending on the severity of the situation. Wrongful death lawsuits in a homicide case are one such example. Assault or battery, or even both, are also considered simultaneously criminal and civil in nature. 

Criminal charges occur when there is a way to fine or punish an individual, while the civil lawsuit focuses primarily on compensating theĀ individual who was injured.