Difference between Civil Law & Criminal Law

We often hear the words ‘Criminal Law’ more than Civil Law in our day-to-day life. The media is also more often covering criminal cases in its news channels or articles compared to civil cases. We even observe this trend in movies and TV series, where criminal’s acts and their case investigation are more popular as story plots. Because of this the general perception of people is that every law offense is a criminal act. However American legal system consists of two types of law – Civil and Criminal, and these two laws are having some very specific differences.

Civil law mainly covers the individual complaints, in which the crime affects the individual rather than the society. On the other hand criminal law mainly deals with the society more than the individual and they are more serious crimes.

Civil law ensures rights of the individual and the individual may get compensation according to the crime done against the victim. Criminal law ensures to maintain the law and order, to protect society and serious punishments are given to the wrong doers.

Let’s dig a little deeper into both laws and try to understand them.

What is Civil Law?

According to Legal Dictionary civil law is the set of rules, regulations and legal remedies which are defined to protect individual rights, which are related to contracts, torts, property or family problems. The rights and duties of persons amongst themselves is the primary concern of civil law. Civil Law punishment mainly consists of compensation to injury or any other issue rather than punishment of imprisonment. In civil law the punishment may also depend on the previous similar cases.

Let’s explore a little deeper into the different areas that civil law covers.

Contract Law

Contract law is a part of law that is related to exchange of goods, services, properties, or money. According to contract law, an agreement made between two or more people or business entities, in which there is a promise to do something in return for a gain or advantage, is legally binding. Contract is the center of many business dealings, and anyone entering into a contract that fails to follow the contract, even by mistake, could result in legal problems.

Tort Law

Tort Law are the set of rules which are made to help individuals who have suffered harm by the unreasonable acts of another. It is an area of law that administer the wrongful actions of an individual or entity, which cause injury to another individuals property, or reputation, and which entitle the injured party to compensation.

When someone’s actions cause some type of harm to another, whether it is physical harm to another person, or harm to someone’s property or reputation, the harmed or injured person or entity may seek compensation accordingly through the court.

Property Law

As the name suggest it is set of rules that administer the law related to personal property or real property. Personal property relates to tangible, such as jewelry, animals, and merchandise, or intangible such as patents, copyrights, stocks, and bonds. Real property refers to land; apartment and/or anything built on it that cannot be easily removed, as well as anything under the surface of the land, such as oil and minerals.

Family Law

Family law deals with the set of rules which administer family problems such as divorce, annulment, child custody, adoption, birth, child support, and any other issues affecting families. Family law mainly deals with the law that solves issues regarding divorce, in which after divorce rules are set such as property distribution, financial support after divorce, child custody etc. Some newer rules are also set for same-sex marriage, artificial conception, surrogate motherhood, in vitro fertilization, and palimony.

Who wins the case and on what basis?

In most civil cases, the judge has to make a decision about which side wins based on a standard called “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that the winner’s side is more probably true than not true. It does not mean that one side brought more evidence than the other side. It means that one side’s evidence was more convincing than the other’s.

In some cases, the standard for reaching a decision is “clear and convincing evidence.” This means that the winner needs to prove that his version of the facts is truer. It is an intermediate degree of proof, more than “preponderance of the evidence” but less than the certainty required proving an issue beyond a reasonable doubt.

What is Criminal Law?

Criminal Law are a set of rules which administer the rules which when broken by a person can be punished to imprison and also can be convicted to death penalty. This rules are define to address public welfare than that of individual loss. According to Legal Dictionary a criminal law is the area of local, state, and federal law that defines criminal acts and offenses, governs the arrest, detention, charging, and prosecution of accused offenders, and sets specific punishments.

In criminal case the criminal is punished to partial imprisonment or also lifetime imprisonment and in some cases depending on the severity of crime the person is also punished to death penalty.

A crime is an unlawful act of a person which affects the society or a community. In instances where individual fails to follow the rules and law made by the government or court, he or she commits a criminal act by breaking the law. This body of laws is different from civil law, because criminal law penalties involve losing of one’s rights and imprisonment. Conversely, civil laws relate more to legal controversies and involve money damages.

Types of Criminal Law

There are two types of criminal laws: misdemeanors and felonies.

A misdemeanor is an offense that is considered lower level criminal offense, such as minor assaults, traffic offenses, or petty thefts. Moreover, in most cases, the penalty for the misdemeanor crime is typically one year or less.

In contrast, felony crimes involve more serious offenses. Some examples of felonies include murder, manslaughter, drug crimes, rape, robbery, and arson. Every state in the U.S., felonies carry a penalty of one year or more, depending upon the particular nature of the offense and the jurisdiction where the felony crime was committed. In addition, every state has a different body of criminal laws which vary from state to state.

What is crime and how can it be proved?

A crime is something a person does on purpose, knowingly, or recklessly that is against the law. An act is “purposefully” done when the person has a conscious intention to engage in the act, or to bring about a certain result. The crime is not the result of a mistake, or an act coerced by another person. An action is “reckless” when the perpetrator knows it carries an uncalled-for risk for harm to another, yet consciously disregards that risk.

The prosecutor has to prove that the act has occurred and the person involved has done the act purposefully/intentionally/knowingly which is reckless. The courts may assume criminal intention from certain facts of the case which would show any reasonable person to make the same assumption. For example, the intent to commit armed robbery may be assumed by the defendant’s possession of a mask and gun, as long as the items coincide in some way with the robbery or attempted robbery.

“In Criminal law the case is filed by a government body such as police and not by the individual.”

When someone has been charged with a crime, he/she has a right to be representation by an attorney. A criminal defense lawyer is one who specializes in criminal defense, and has experience in dealing with the prosecutor’s office, as well as in criminal trials. An experienced criminal defense attorney like Gary A. Modafferi may handle a wide spectrum of criminal case types, such as white collar crimes which include Identity theft, Mortgage Fraud, Embezzlement and computer crimes, etc as well as violent crimes, murder and sex crimes, etc. A criminal lawyer may also be involved in handling complex criminal cases related to Constitutional Law issues like death penalty defense, lifetime supervision, search and seizure issues, etc.

According to Nevada Trial Court Statistics the below graph will provide you some info on the number of criminal vs civil cases filed for the past three years in Nevada court.

Bar graph representation

A quick comparison table between Civil law and Criminal law:

Basis for Comparison Civil Law Criminal Law
Definition It is a set rules which helps to protect individual person rights. It is a set rules which helps to protect the society or community.
Affected to Individual person Society or people community
Deals with It deals with any harm or violation to individual rights. It deals with the acts which law defines as offences.
Can be filed by Individual person Government body such as police
Actions Sue Prosecute
Outcome Remedy Punishment
Punishments by court The person has to pay penalty/compensation Imprisonment, fine, discharge.
Consequence Defendant is liable or not liable Defendant is guilty or not guilty

Final Words

Whether you’re facing a civil or criminal law case, it is a must to get legal advice as soon as possible. An experience and reliable lawyer can help you whether you’ve been accused of a crime, are facing a civil lawsuit or want to start a compensation claim.

Law Offices of Gary A. Modafferi assists clients in a wide range of criminal cases. If you need our help, please don’t hesitate to contact us online or call on 702-327-3033.

Drug Crimes in Las Vegas

Many people might have the belief that “anything goes” in Las Vegas.If you ask the local people who live there, then you would come to know that this simplyisn’t true.Judges take the drug arrest cases very seriously despite Las Vegas being known as “Sin City”. In fact, Nevada has some of the toughest drug laws in the nation.Felony drug convictions not only carry Nevada State Prison terms and high fines. But if you are booked having any narcotics offense in your criminal record, then it could keep you from gaining or keeping employment too.

In Nevada it’s a felony offense possessing any amount of drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine. In many jurisdictions a nominal amount of any illegal substance such as cocaine can also be charged as a misdemeanor. Someone possessing as little as 4 grams of cocaine or methamphetamine, can be booked under trafficking offense and the punishment is prison stay. The approach of Las Vegas law enforcement officers is far from “anything goes” when it has to do with drug crimes.

Many times people get charged with drug crimes because they make a bad choice for a short period of time. Unfortunately due to this they have to suffer for a much longer period of time. Aside from prison or jail time, people are often required to pay large fines. Unfortunately for these individuals, when this happens they may lose licenses or privileges that can destroy not only their social status, but also their ability to earn a living.

Suppose you have been charged with first-time narcotics possession for personal use in Nevada. There is a chance the whole case can get dismissed if you do Drug Court in Las Vegas, NV. It consists of a drug education class or rehabilitation program. However possessing narcotics with the intent to sell them can potentially carry long prison terms. In some circumstances drug transportation can qualify as trafficking. Trafficking drugs carries very harsh penalties. Even if you have no drugs in your possession, being “high” is a criminal offense in itself. It is a common misconception that DUIs involve only drunk driving. You actually face the same penalties for “drugged driving.” It is illegal to possess, sell, distribute, make, or advertise imitation drugs in Nevada.

Many tourist while on vacation get arrested in Las Vegas because of drug charges. Tourist often don’t know the Drug Charge rules and hence get caught up in the charge. Drug charges from a Las Vegas Nightclub can have legal complication beyond ordinary drug possession and other drug charges.

Therefore in order to help you go through the difficult area of law related to drug crimes in Las Vegas, you will surely need an experienced, well-informed and aggressive drug lawyer on your side to ensure that your case is treated fairly. A conviction for a drug related crime can have overwhelming consequences to an individual. Ourdrug defense attorneys have years of experience fighting drug charge cases. Depending on the case, we might get these charges lessened through a plea or dismissed at trial.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Law Offices of Gary A. Modafferi

815 S. Casino Center Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Phone: 702-474-4222

All you need to know about Criminal Defense Attorney


Criminal lawyers, also known as criminal defense lawyers/attorney and public defenders, defend individuals, organizations and entities that have been charged with a crime in court. Criminal lawyers handle a diverse spectrum of criminal cases, ranging from domestic violence crimes, sex crimes, violent crimes and drug crimes to driving under the influence (DUI), theft, embezzlement and fraud.

When do I need a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Generally anyone who has been arrested or charged with committing a crime will for sure need the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. Many individuals who are facing criminal charges usually delay finding a qualified attorney until there is no other option left, which may turn out to be a big mistake. There are undoubtedly many important things happening at once when charges are made that must be handled immediately; however, the first thing that should be done is to find legal counsel. Most criminal defense attorneys would agree that the outcome of the case may very well depend on early attorney representation.

What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney do?

A criminal attorneys will represent you if you are charged with either of the two categories of criminal law: misdemeanors and/or felonies.

Misdemeanors are less serious charges which can result in less than a year imprisonment or a fine.

For instance in Nevada, a misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. But if you are convicted of a misdemeanor, the judge can also order you do any number of other things before closing your case. This might include community service or counseling, etc.

Gross misdemeanors are somewhere in between felonies and regular misdemeanors. A gross misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of one year in Clark County Detention Center and a $2,000 fine.

Felonies are more serious and if found guilty, are punishable by a minimum of one year in Nevada state prison. There are different categories of felonies in Nevada, from category A to category E. Category A include murder, first degree kidnapping, and sexual assault. Category B felonies include robbery, burglary, and home invasion.

Since both felonies and misdemeanors can end up with a prison sentence, you should consult a lawyer if you are charged with any of them.

It is always wise to look for a specialized criminal defense attorney. You can search for a lawyer who concentrates his practice in the specific area of defense that you need. Many criminal defense attorneys not only handle routine criminal defense cases but some concentrate in a particular area of defense, like dui, dwi, divorce, traffic, domestic violence, criminal cases, drug and weapons crimes, constitutional law issues, white collar crimes, etc.

What Should I Expect When Working with a Criminal Lawyer?

A criminal defense lawyer will do what he can to prove your innocence or at least lessen your sentence.

If your attorney knows that you can’t win the case, he may advise you to settle out of court, which will usually get you a shorter or easier sentence.

If you do end up in court and are charged with a felony, your defense lawyer can attempt to: prove your innocence, lower the charge to a misdemeanor, get you a shorter sentence, or get you placed in a better facility. For a misdemeanor your attorney will advocate for fines or community service over jail time.

Although there is no guarantee that the outcome will be favorable to you, it’s a good idea to hire a criminal defense attorney who understands the way courts work. The aid of a lawyer will greatly increase your chances of reducing your sentence or winning your case.

If you have further questions about what a criminal defense attorney can do for you, please call or visit

Law Offices of Gary A. Modafferi

815 S. Casino Center Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Phone: 702-474-4222

Can you be charged for murder if the drug you gave or sold to someone, kills them?

Should a drug dealers or a drug supplier be charged with murder when somebody dies from a fatal drug overdose? With deaths on a rise due to the consumption of heroin and opioids at a high, prosecutors have begun to charge those who supplied the final dose with murder, even if that person is the victim’s friend, lover, sibling or spouse.

Generally there are two parties involved that could be charged with murder – the dealer and fellow user. In cases involving the fellow user who gave another user what ends as a fatal dose, there are a lot of demerits in charging the survivor with a crime. Critics warn that it would discourage people from calling 911 when they see an overdose and that we should try to help drug addicts rather than punish them. In fact this would also weaken the state’s Good Samaritan overdose laws that offers to protect drug users who call 911 during an overdose, which would result in even more deaths.

Now on the other hand, we have drug dealers who are not protected by Good Samaritan laws and can be charged with homicide and/or murder in some cases. This again depends on a case to case basis unless they knowingly distributed an impure drug that could easily result in death. That being said, manslaughter charges can be brought up against those who have no malicious intent but did something potentially reckless and dealing in drugs like heroin certainly meets those requirements. Providing drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose can be considered involuntary manslaughter if it was dangerous to human life or safety based on the specific circumstances involved.

In recent years, a number of states, including California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, have enacted or revised laws aimed at punishing dealers for the overdose deaths of their clients. A growing number of law enforcement officials around the country are prosecuting drug dealers for causing heroin overdose deaths.

It is important to note that it’s a crime not only to sell drugs in Nevada but also to “import, transport, exchange, barter, supply, prescribe, dispense, give away, administer, or manufacture” controlled substances.

Therefore, the simple acts of trading drugs, giving drugs away for free or making drugs for personal use can be punished just as harshly as a drug sale in the state of Nevada.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Law Offices of Gary A. Modafferi

815 S. Casino Center Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Phone: 702-474-4222

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