Civil and criminal laws play a major part in our lives. Civil law deals with relationships between two or more individuals and is addressed in civil court. Here, the person injured (the “plaintiff”) by another person files a lawsuit against that person (the “defendant”).
Normally, if the plaintiff wins, the defendant has to pay compensation to the plaintiff. Criminal law, on the other hand, is concerned with relationships between an individual and the federal, state, or local government. If someone (the “defendant”) breaks a criminal law, the government (the “prosecutor”) files a criminal complaint against the defendant.
If the defendant loses, he may be liable to pay a fine or may be imprisoned or both. But, sometimes a single event may be tried in both courts depending on the circumstances. For example, a defendant may be tried in criminal court for conducting murder, and later the same defendant may be sued in civil court by the victim’s family for causing wrongful death.
The principle of double jeopardy (the constitutional protection against being tried twice for the same crime) is not considered here.