Statue Of Lady Justice in a lawyer office

What’s the Difference Between Civil & Criminal Law?

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Civil Attorneys handle cases such as Family Law, Torts, Civil Litigation, Real Estate, Business Law, Wills & Estates.  Civil Law is a lawsuit between people or businesses, a Plaintiff and Defendant, (ex. Smith v. Smith) in order to solve a dispute and does not result in imprisonment.  Criminal Attorneys typically handle Traffic, Infractions, Misdemeanors, Felonies and DWI offenses.  Criminal Cases involve the State (Plaintiff-District Attorney) against a Person (Defendant), (State of North Carolina v. Smith), due to a violation of a law or local ordinance and may result in fines, community service or imprisonment. 

If searching for an attorney, check the field of law practiced.  An Attorney that only practices Criminal Defense typically will not take a Divorce case.  Attorneys often choose a specific or fields to practice in order to become an “expert” in that field.   That being said, there are attorneys that choose to practice multiple fields of law, as some fields overlap with each other.  These attorneys are typically in General Practice.  In law firms with multiple attorneys, each one may concentrate on different aspects of the law.  Research attorneys according to the type of case you have.

By Bonnie Dubier, NC State Bar Certified Paralegal #598831