What Is Civil Law?

Criminal Law Explained

Criminal law primarily involves the government seeking to punish individuals for wrongdoing. Although criminal acts are typically misdeeds that individuals have directed at other individuals, criminal law is usually not concerned with repairing the damage caused or compensating the victim.

Instead, criminal law is more concerned with the damage caused to society at large; it seeks to penalize and make an example of the wrongdoer, with penalties such as probation, monetary fines and incarceration. In criminal prosecutions, individuals do not sue each other, and the victim generally has no right to control or make decisions with respect to the proceedings.

What Is Civil Law?

Civil law, by contrast, is concerned with the relationships between people, keeping in mind that "people" human beings as well as entities like corporations, trusts, associations, and businesses. People interact every days in areas that fall under (or could under certain circumstances) entail "civil law."

Common examples include: signing rental agreements, applying for bank loans, signing contracts for the purchase and sale of goods, collecting debts, hiring a contractor for home improvement, submitted a claim for insurance coverage, getting in a car accident, getting married or divorced, and myriad other commonplace interactions.

Some lawyers who practice civil law are sometimes described as " transactional lawyers," because they will not litigate disputes between people, but instead tend to help people establish the terms of their relationships. Areas of civil law that may be considered "transactional" can include structuring shareholder agreements between business owners, drafting pre-marital agreements, preparing wills and powers of attorney, or advising a client what terms to include in a lease agreement.

Other lawyers who practice civil law are sometimes described as " civil litigators" or " trial attorneys," as they tend to represent people in situations where existing relationships have gone bad, and are prepared to take matters to court to be resolved by a jury or jury. Where a party has breached a contract with another individual, failed to pay an amount owed under a lease, struck another individual with their vehicle, or wrongfully took her withheld someone else's property, civil litigation might arise. Civil litigation is typically not concerned with punishing a wrongdoer (although in some instances it may be), so much as it is concerned with making the wrongdoer compensate the party the wrongdoer has injured.

There are, of course, lawyers who handle both transactional work and litigation.

Experienced Civil Litigators

All of the attorneys at Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. in Fairfax are civil litigators who are qualified and prepared to litigate civil disputes in the Virginia state and federal courts. Our lawyers have been serving clients for more than 20 years and will help you understand the difference between criminal versus civil lawsuits.

As reflected in the other sections of this website, there are a number of different areas in which the attorneys of Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. focus our practice, including divorce, personal injury accidents and claims involving professional malpractice. Beyond those areas, this firm's attorneys handle matters involving breaches of contract, defamation, lawsuits between shareholders in small businesses, disputes with property insurance and life insurance companies over benefits and other assorted matters.