Understanding Criminal vs. Civil Law


Choosing between criminal and civil law is a major decision for law students, and it’s common not to know right away. Law schools understand this and don’t expect an immediate choice. However, understanding the difference is crucial as you progress in your studies and plan your career. Get in touch with top 10 criminal lawyers in bangalore

What is Criminal Law?

Criminal law deals with laws created to punish or reform people who commit crimes. Crimes can be against individuals or the state. Criminal cases are prosecuted by the government and can involve either misdemeanours or felonies.

What is Civil Law?

Civil law covers non-criminal disputes, typically about money or property. It deals with rights and interests violated by another person or organization, involving two parties: the plaintiff and the defendant.

Civil law can be divided into several areas:

Contract Law:

Deals with agreements between people or businesses.

Property Law:

Governs ownership of personal and real property.

Family Law: Involves issues like divorce, child custody, and adoption.

Tort Law:

Covers cases where someone is harmed due to another’s negligence or wrongdoing.

Key Differences Between Criminal and Civil Law

The main difference is who brings the case to court. In civil law, the case is between private individuals or organisations. The standards of proof are also different. Criminal law requires proof “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while civil law uses a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning the claim must be more likely true than not.

Criminal law aims to protect society by punishing offenders. Civil law focuses on resolving disputes between individuals and providing compensation to the wronged party.

Intersection of Criminal and Civil Law

Sometimes, criminal and civil law overlap. A crime can lead to both criminal prosecution and a civil lawsuit. For example, a person found not guilty of a crime in criminal court might still be sued in civil court for damages related to the same incident.

Salaries in Criminal and Civil Law

Lawyer salaries in India vary based on location, experience, and speciality. On average, criminal lawyers earn around ₹6,00,000 annually, but this can range from ₹3,50,000 to ₹10,00,000 or more. Civil lawyers tend to earn more, with an average salary of ₹10,00,000. Specialities within civil law, such as medical or intellectual property law, can bring in even higher salaries.

Choosing Your Path

Deciding which type of law to practice involves considering job duties, expectations, and opportunities. Here are some tips to help you decide:


Learn as much as you can about both fields to see what interests you.


Connect with peers, professors, and professionals. Join law programs and attend events.

Interview Professionals:

Talk to lawyers working in various fields to understand what their jobs are like.


Be honest about your interests, skills, and goals. Choose a path that matches your strengths and passions.

Becoming a lawyer requires dedication and hard work. By researching, networking, and self-assessing, you can make an informed decision about whether criminal or civil law is the right fit for you.

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