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What is the difference between criminal and civil wrongs?


Criminal action is a complaint brought by the state or federal government, acting on behalf of the citizens of the State or the U.S., against a person accused of violating a statutory law. Only the State or federal government can prosecute criminal wrongs such as murder, drug-related offenses, burglary, and DUI.
A Civil wrong is any wrongdoing, for which an action for damages may be brought. A harmed person or an organization brings a civil action, which is a non-criminal action, involving private rights, seeking remedy. Both private citizens and the state and federal government can bring civil actions against others. Examples of civil wrongs are torts (such as negligence), property disputes, contract matters, and wills and trusts.

The main objective of criminal law is prevention of offenses and punishment, while the goal of civil law is compensation. Some crimes can also be civil wrongs, such as assault or battery where a victim seeks compensation for his or her injuries or pain and suffering from a wrongdoer.

For more information on a related topic:

What is the difference between constitutional law, statutory law, and common law?

Jeffrey Meldon
Founder of the Meldon Law Firm