Civil or Criminal Defense Lawyer: Which One Do You Need?


If you have found yourself in trouble and are in need of one of Maryland’s top defense attorneys to represent you in court, you might want to look into which type of attorney you need first.

If you are involved in any type of court litigation or have been accused of a crime, you will need a civil or criminal defense lawyer to act on your behalf before the court.  The problem is the average person has no idea what the difference is between a civil and criminal lawyer.

Today we will discuss the key differences between a civil and criminal case, as well as the distinctions between their respective attorneys.  This way, should you or someone you know/love require a Maryland attorney’s help, you will know whom to contact from the get-go.


The Differences Between a Civil and Criminal Court Case

The American legal system is comprised of two distinct types of court cases – civil and criminal.  Each case type has their own set of specific rules, and usually their own set of attorneys who are familiar with them.

Civil cases deal primarily with private individuals or businesses that cannot reach an agreement on their own and need the assistance of civil attorneys, and the civil courts, to help make a decision.

On the other hand, criminal cases are in place to help determine whether an individual has violated a criminal law and how to punish said individual if he or she has.


Civil Court Cases

Civil courts handle disputes between people and businesses and typically involve family issues such as divorce, business and contract disputes, personal injury cases, and property disputes.

In a civil case, one party (the plaintiff) files suit against another party (the defendant).  The plaintiff then asks the judge to award monetary compensation (damages), change a legal status, or order the defendant to fulfill a legal obligation to the plaintiff.

Brought at both the state and federal level, people, organizations, and the federal government can file civil suits claiming a violation of a federal statute or constitutional right.


Criminal Court Cases

Criminal courts begin with the state, represented by a criminal prosecutor, bringing charges against a party (the defendant) for breaking the law.  This can be in the form of a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the nature and severity of the crime.

The United States Attorney’s Office prosecutes criminal cases on behalf of the people of the United States, if at the federal level.

If the crime is at the state level, the State’s Attorney’s Office prosecutes the crime in court.

In a criminal case, the victim has no say in whether charges will be brought upon the defendant accused of breaking the law.  It is a prosecutor’s job to decide which charges to bring against the defendant, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the charges are valid.

If after prosecution the defendant is found guilty of the criminal charges against him, he will be sentenced.  This may include a monetary fine or restitution to the victim, imprisonment, and/or probation.


A Brief Contrast of Civil and Criminal Cases

When it comes to civil and criminal cases, there are some very noticeable differences when it comes to policies and procedures:

  • Criminal cases are offenses against the state or society as a whole, and they are filed by legal representatives of the state. Civil cases are crimes against an individual/organization and are filed by the wronged party.
  • Criminal cases can result in potential jail time as a punishment whereas civil cases cannot.
  • Criminal cases require a strict burden of proof to gain a guilty verdict (“beyond a reasonable doubt”). Civil cases have a lower standard of proof (“the preponderance of the evidence”).
  • You can have a judge or jury decide a civil or criminal case. In a criminal case, the defendant decides whether to have a judge or jury trial.  In a civil case, the plaintiff can request a jury trial, and some causes of action cannot be tried in front of a jury.  In addition, a criminal jury is made up of twelve (12) people, and a civil jury is made up of six (6) people.
  • Defendants in criminal cases are constitutionally entitled to a criminal defense attorney. If they cannot afford one, the state must provide a public defender.  Defendants in civil cases must pay for representation or else defend themselves.
  • Many well-known constitutional protections, such as the protection against illegal searches and seizures, are afforded to all criminal defendants. This is not the case for civil defendants.


Civil Versus Criminal Defense Attorneys

Now that you know the difference between a civil and criminal court case, it is time to apply those case types to the attorneys that defend the people accused of violating a law.


Civil Defense Lawyers

Civil defense lawyers in Maryland represent defendants in civil cases.  Many times, before entering the private practice of law, civil defense lawyers have experience working for the government as either a district attorney or public defender.  This experience helps greatly when it comes to defending their clients in the same courts they used to take cases to trial.

Here are some of the most common civil cases seen in both federal and state civil courts:


Tort Claim

A “tort” is a wrongful act, other than a breach of contract, which results in injury to someone’s person, property, or reputation.  The injured person is then entitled to some form of compensation.

Cases involving tort claims include (but are not limited to):

  • Personal injury
  • Battery
  • Negligence
  • Defamation
  • Medical malpractice
  • Fraud


Breach of Contract Claims

A breach of contract results from one person’s failure to perform a term in a contract.  This includes oral or written contracts.

Cases involving breach of contracts include (but are not limited to):

  • Not completing a job
  • Not paying in full or on time
  • Failing to deliver goods sold as promised


Equitable Claims

An equitable claim asks the court to order the defendant to take some action or stop some action.  This can also include an element of monetary compensation.

Cases involving equitable claims include (but are not limited to):

  • Temporary restraining orders
  • Injunctions to stop something (such as the transfer of land, the destruction of property, etc.)


Landlord/Tenant Issues

Civil courts handle all landlord/tenant disputes.  Some examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Evictions from a rental property
  • Proper return of security deposit money
  • Housing discrimination practices


Criminal Defense Lawyers

Top criminal defense lawyers in Maryland battle the state prosecutors when the state or federal government files a complaint of criminal charges against their client for some wrongdoing.

In the United States, every defendant in a criminal court case has the constitutional right to representation in the form of a defense attorney at every stage of the case.

Criminal defense lawyers investigate the facts and laws related to the criminal charges brought upon his or her client.  In addition, they advise the defendant on the options for pleas (guilt, innocent, and no contest), negotiate plea bargains offered by the prosecutor, and represent the defendant at trial.

Here are some of the most common types of criminal charges brought in criminal court:

  • Financial fraud
  • Robbery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Kidnapping
  • DUI cases
  • Threatening the president or other federal officials or buildings
  • Committing a crime on federal property
  • Committing a crime using interstate commerce
  • Committing a crime that involves a conspiracy
  • Using a firearm to commit a crime
  • Manufacturing and/or distributing controlled substances


In the end, if you are in need of an experienced criminal defense attorney in the Maryland area, it is important to find one that has represented defendants in similar situations as your own.

It is also important to consider the outcomes of those cases.  After all, if you have been charged with a crime, you may be facing significant jail time should you be found guilty.

As one of Maryland’s best private attorneys, experienced in both civil and criminal cases, Dilip Paliath, Esq. has what you need when it comes to legal representation.  Offering a full range of services to the Baltimore metropolitan area, Dilip Paliath, Esq. and his partners take the time to get to know each individual client, answering questions and addressing concerns.

Being involved in a criminal case can be scary.  Dilip Paliath, Esq. has the ability to explain your case facts, legal rights, and available options so that you can put this behind you quickly and move on with your life.  So contact him today and see how he can help you handle your case, so you don’t have to wade through the legal system confused about the process.


Dilip Paliath, Esq.

One Comment

  1. Some really important points are mention here. A lot more than thanks for sharing it.

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