Difference between Civil Procedure and Criminal Procedure.


Author: Ms. Teresa Dhar, CNLU, Patna


A. The civil procedure applies to the process where two parties bring a case to the court for a decision on a particular matter. These matters can include divorces, estate distribution, injury cases, or even matters such as discrimination in the workplace.

B. The criminal procedure applies to the process where the state or federal government is arresting and trying someone for a crime that was committed. The rules of civil procedure are different than that of criminal procedures because the proceedings are different.


A. Civil procedure dictates that a civil case must begin with filing a complaint. The complaint is served to the offending party who then drafts and files an answer with the court. Anyone can be a party to a civil case including people, businesses, and government entities. When parties go before the court in a civil case, it is to determine whether a person was injured and how much they should be compensated for that injury. All of this information is specifically drafted into the documents. Civil cases still have some Constitutional protection in place. For instance, the parties to a case must file and receive the consent of the court in order to start the discovery process. During discovery, the parties are free to investigate each other’s property and information in order to gain access to necessary evidence for their case. If the parties search an area that was not covered by the discovery documents, that piece of evidence will not be considered in court. The civil procedure then dictates all the motions, meetings, and even the civil trial. Unlike the rules of evidence that can be used in both criminal and civil cases, the rules of civil procedure and the various motions and meetings that happen do not occur in a criminal proceeding. For example, according to the rules of civil procedure, if the defense proves that there are no facts that the parties are arguing in the case, then they can file a motion for summary judgment.

This allows the judge to decide the case based only on the two initial filings, saving the parties’ time and money.

B. A criminal investigation begins with a crime happening. The police determine suspects and start questioning people. In order to question anyone or go into anyone’s home, the police must obtain a warrant from a judge. If a warrant is not pursued, then the evidence and anything else that was found as the result of that piece of evidence is all thrown out. During a criminal trial, the state or federal government is accusing a person or people of the crime. If the accused person cannot afford an attorney, the criminal procedure requires that one is given to them through the public defender’s office. Anyone who is accused and questioned is always reminded of their Constitutional rights, including the right to meet with their attorney and the right to remain silent when questioned.

Even after a criminal case is over and the accused person sentenced, they are permitted to appeal their case as high as necessary if there is a mistake.


A. The key idea to abstract from the civil procedure is efficiency. The rules of civil procedure are designed to make the process efficient and smooth and prevent long trials where they are not needed. This is possible because the only thing at stake for the defendant is money.

B. The key ideal to abstract from criminal procedure is Constitutional protection. The rules of criminal procedure are designed to protect an accused person’s Constitutional rights and prevent the government from wrongfully or unfairly accusing and prosecuting someone of a crime. The reason for these additional safeguards is that someone’s freedom and reputation are at stake in a criminal trial.


Civil cases involve disputes between (usually) private parties, while criminal cases are considered acts against the city, state, county, or federal government. But some acts may result in both civil claims and criminal charges. For instance, a person may be sued for the intentional tort of assault and/or battery, but also may be arrested and charged with the crime(s) of assault and/or battery.

Also, there are times when a criminal act may give way to civil liability, such as when someone is charged with homicide and also sued for wrongful death (which typically follows the completion of the criminal trial process). As in the assault and battery example above, the criminal charges are punishable by fines, prison time, and other penalties, while the lawsuit is focused on recovering money to compensate the victim (or the victim’s family) for damages.

II. Key Differences Between Civil Proceedings and Proceedings:
The differences between civil law and criminal law can be drawn clearly on the following grounds:

1. A general law, which is associated with disputes between individuals, organizations, or at two, wherein the wrongdoer compensates the affected one, is known as civil law. The law with respect to the offenses or crimes committed against society as a whole is criminal law.

2. While a civil law is initiated by a plaintiff, i.e. the aggrieved party, in criminal law thepetition is filed by the government.

3. The purpose of civil law is to sustain the rights of a person and to compensate him. On the other hand, the purpose of criminal law is to maintain law and order, to protect society and to give punishment to the wrongdoers.

4. To start a case in civil law, one needs to file a petition to the respective court or tribunal. Conversely, to begin a case in criminal law, first of all, the complaint should be registered with the police who investigate the crime, thereafter, a case is filed in the court.

5. Civil law is concerned with any harm or infringement of individual rights. As against this, the criminal law is all about the acts which law defines as offenses.

6. In civil law, the aggrieved party or complainant sues the other party, whereas, in the case of criminal law, an individual is prosecuted for committing a crime in the court of law.

7. In civil law, the remedy is sought to settle the dispute between the parties concerned, wherein compensation may be provided to the aggrieved party. On the contrary, in criminal law, punishment is given to the wrongdoers, or fine may be imposed.

8. In civil law, the court has the power to award for damages and injunction. Unlike, criminal law, wherein the court has the power to give imprisonment, charge fine or discharge the defendant.

9. In a civil case, the defendant is liable or not liable, whereas in a criminal case the defendant is either guilty or not guilty.