Criminal Litigation vs. Civil Litigation

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Though similar and intertwined at times, criminal litigation and civil litigation cater to wholly different legal codes and bodies of law than one another. 

Criminal Litigation

Criminal law deals exclusively with crimes and other violations of criminal statutes set forth in local, state, or federal law.  In the most basic definition, criminal law is the only body of law where an individual may be incarcerated.  The federal courts, as well as state and local courts, all have criminal courts systems to address charges brought against individuals that are filed by a prosecutor following the arrests from law enforcement.  The defendants facing these charges will then have to proceed through the criminal courts process, which will include criminal litigation.  Given the sliding scale of criminal charges, punishments, and sentences, as well as the very unique nature of every offender, there is much leeway for attorneys representing defendants in criminal cases, including plea bargaining, trial representation, and even sentencing.

Civil Litigation

Civil litigation, on the other hand, deals with financial compensation and remuneration for losses and damages according to civil laws in each state and at the federal level.  A civil attorney will deal with civil litigation cases such as tort cases, lawsuits, contracts, real estate, and a whole slew of other specialized legal practice areas that do not deal with criminal laws, expressly.  Both criminal litigation and civil litigation, however, may be intertwined in a number of ways.  For example, a criminal act may result in criminal convictions, or even acquittal, but can be tried in the civil courts for financial compensation for damages.  Likewise, some actions, if taken during civil litigation, may also prove to be criminal acts and punishable under criminal statutes. 

For civil litigation matters, it is always prudent to seek counsel from a civil attorney, while if you are arrested or face criminal investigation, it is best to seek help from a criminal law attorney.

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