Understanding the Difference Between Criminal Law and Civil Law in Missouri


When legal matters arise, it's essential to grasp the differences between criminal law and civil law. In the State of Missouri, these two branches of law govern distinct types of cases and have separate legal procedures. As an experienced attorney in Missouri, I offer a comprehensive guide to help you understand the fundamental distinctions between criminal law and civil law. This article explores the key principles, legal procedures, and roles of attorneys in each domain, providing valuable insights to clarify the contrasting aspects of criminal and civil law.

Overview of Criminal Law:

Criminal law in Missouri deals with cases involving crimes committed against society. Prosecutions are pursued by the state, seeking to hold individuals accountable for violating criminal statutes. If found guilty, the accused may face penalties such as imprisonment, fines, probation, or community service.

Overview of Civil Law:

Civil law in Missouri, on the other hand, pertains to disputes between individuals or entities. These cases focus on seeking compensation or remedies for harm or damages suffered. The objective is to resolve conflicts and restore the injured party to their original state or provide appropriate compensation.

Nature of Cases:

In criminal law, cases involve offenses against the state or society as a whole. Examples include theft, assault, and drug-related crimes. Civil law, on the other hand, covers a wide range of disputes, including personal injury, contract disputes, property disputes, and family law matters.

Burden of Proof:

One of the key distinctions between criminal and civil law is the burden of proof. In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove the defendant's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." In civil cases, the burden of proof is a "preponderance of the evidence," which is a lower standard requiring that the evidence is more likely to be true than not.

Legal Procedures:

The legal procedures in criminal and civil law differ significantly. In criminal cases, the state initiates the prosecution, and the accused has the right to remain silent and is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Civil cases are generally initiated by the injured party (plaintiff), and both parties present their evidence and arguments before a judge or jury.

Roles of Attorneys:

In criminal cases, the role of a defense attorney is to represent the accused and protect their rights throughout the legal process. In civil cases, attorneys advocate for their clients' interests, present evidence, and negotiate settlements on their behalf.


Understanding the distinctions between criminal law and civil law in Missouri is crucial when facing legal issues. Criminal law deals with offenses against society and may result in criminal penalties, while civil law addresses disputes between individuals or entities and focuses on seeking compensation or remedies. As an attorney with extensive experience in Missouri, I am here to guide you through these legal domains and provide expert counsel tailored to your unique circumstances. Being informed about these differences will empower you to make informed decisions and protect your rights in any legal situation.