Civil cases usually involve disputes over money, property, or constitutional rights. A person, company, or government agency may file a civil lawsuit.
A civil case begins when a person, business, or government agency claims that another person, business, or government agency failed to meet a legal duty. A civil case focuses on liability and damages.
Criminal cases allege a violation of a federal criminal law. In criminal cases, the government always files the criminal action.
Criminal cases involve actions that are harmful to society or individuals—murder, theft, robbery, kidnapping, rape, assault, arson, tax evasion…
Television news, shows, and movies often focus on criminal law. It is not the victim’s responsibility to bring a criminal case to court. The government brings these cases.
In some criminal cases, there may not be a specific victim. Both the state and federal government prosecute people for sale and distribution of illegal drugs.