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Houston Criminal Defense Attorney - What is the difference between civil and criminal law.

Civil and criminal law are two distinct areas of law that have their roots in the English common law tradition. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals or organizations, such as contracts, property, and torts (personal injury), while criminal law deals with behavior that is prohibited by the state and is punishable by imprisonment or fines.

In the English common law tradition, civil law was primarily concerned with providing a remedy or compensation to individuals or organizations that had been harmed. This often involved resolving disputes between individuals or organizations over issues such as property, contracts, and torts.





The burden of proof in civil cases was typically lower than in criminal cases, meaning that the plaintiff (person bringing the suit) only needed to prove their case by a "preponderance of the evidence" (more likely than not) to win.


Criminal law, on the other hand, dealt with behavior that was considered harmful to society as a whole and was therefore prohibited by the state. Criminal cases were often brought by the state, rather than by individuals, and the goal was to punish individuals who had broken the law, rather than to provide a remedy or compensation. The burden of proof in criminal cases was higher, the prosecution had to prove their case "beyond a reasonable doubt" meaning that there is no plausible explanation for the evidence presented other than the guilt of the accused.


In modern day Houston, Texas, the distinction between civil and criminal law remains largely the same as in the English common law tradition. Civil law continues to focus on providing a remedy or compensation to individuals or organizations that have been harmed, while criminal law continues to focus on punishing individuals who have broken the law and protecting society from harmful behavior.


In Houston, civil cases are typically heard in the civil district courts, where judges have the authority to hear and decide a wide range of legal cases, including contract disputes, property disputes, and personal injury cases. The burden of proof in civil cases is still lower than in criminal cases, meaning that plaintiffs only need to prove their case by a "preponderance of the evidence" to win.


Criminal cases, on the other hand, are typically heard in the criminal district courts, where judges have the authority to hear and decide a wide range of criminal cases, including felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic offenses. The burden of proof in criminal cases is still higher, the prosecution must prove their case "beyond a reasonable doubt."


In addition to the criminal and civil district courts, Houston also has other specialized courts, such as the family law courts, which deal with issues related to marriage and divorce, and the probate courts, which deal with issues related to wills and estates.

It is also worth mentioning that in Texas, the counties have different types of court systems, for example, in Harris county, which is the county that Houston is located, there are several types of courts. District courts, with general jurisdiction, which hear criminal and civil cases. County courts at law, which hear criminal and civil cases, and Constitutional county courts, which hear certain types of civil cases and other matters that are not within the jurisdiction of other courts.


In conclusion, civil and criminal law are two distinct areas of law that have their roots in the English common law tradition. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals or organizations and the goal is to provide a remedy or compensation to the individual or organization that has been harmed. Criminal law deals with behavior that is prohibited by the state and is punishable by imprisonment or fines, the main goal of criminal law is to protect society as a whole and not just individuals. In modern day Houston Texas, the distinction between civil and criminal law remains largely the same and the court system is divided between criminal and civil courts and other specialized courts.


For litigants who do not have counsel: Reading this blog post does not create an attorney client relationship. Call to set up a free consultation.


For the general public: This Blog/Web Site is for educational purposes only and it provides general information and a general understanding of the law, but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship created. Don't just read this as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney.


For attorneys: This Blog is informational and educational in nature and is not a substitute for Westlaw or other research and consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. As you know the law can change day to day based on recent case opinions. And unfortunately you shouldn't cite it in court as binding authority because it is not. Mention it to your friends, just seek real consultation if it’s something important.


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