Attorney Truong handles all types of civil matters. Civil law usually means the law regarding rights between two or more private individuals or entities acting similarly to individuals.

Summary ¹

The civil law in general attempts to right a wrong, enforce an agreement, or settle a dispute over the rights of individuals or other legal entities. Usually, a party bringing a law suit in civil court is asking for compensation in money from the other party. The money that will be owed if the law suit is successful is called “damages”. Civil law suits are the civilized form of, or legal alternative to, what might happen in other countries: revenge. The court first decides how much amount money is owed by the party being sued. The court can then order the defendant to pay that amount of money to the person bringing the law suit from their assets or income based upon their ability to pay that amount.

Legal actions by individuals within any of the areas of civil law are called civil actions or law suits. Civil law provides a way for a court to decide disputes between individuals or other legal entities acting similarly to an individual, such as a corporation or governmental body. These disputes typically include torts (such as accidents, negligence, and libel), contract disputes, commercial law, and any other disputes between private parties and other legal entities and governmental bodies.

Occasionally, it becomes necessary for a party to a civil action to get a court order or injunction against another party which either requires them to do something or refrain from doing something in order to protect the rights of the party bringing the law suit. Such a court order or injunction can be enforced at a hearing to determine if the party is disobeying the court order. If a court decides that a party has disobeyed a court order or injunction the court may decide or “hold” the person disobeying the court in contempt of court. Enforcement of the court order or injunction then usually comes in the form of fines, attorneys fees, or any other order which is fair under the circumstances. In rare circumstances, the court may order the person disobeying the court order or injunction to serve time in jail or prison or a penitentiary.

Civil Law As Compared To Other Types of Law

In all criminal proceedings, the state (the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) or the federal government (the United States of America) is the party bringing the court proceeding against the individual. Criminal law, as compared to civil law, involves the possibility of an person being sentenced to serve time in the house of correction or in prison or a federal penitentiary. Because a corporation or other legal entity is not itself a natural person, it can only be fined under criminal law. An individual, acting on behalf of a corporation or other legal entity, may in some circumstances be jailed for his or her actions under criminal law.

Private parties may, in some circumstances, ask the state or federal government to begin a criminal proceeding. But a private person or entity can never actually become the party bringing such a criminal proceeding in place of the state or federal government.

Criminal law is always based on written laws called statutes. These statutes are written by the state legislature or the Congress of the United States of America. Civil law is somewhat different from other forms of non-criminal law such as military law, administrative law or constitutional law, international law.

The probate of wills, trusts, property disputes, family law matters, although they also are non-criminal proceedings, are addressed in the Family and Probate Court. The Family and Probate Court is specifically designated to handle such matters. Administrative law generally involves enforcement against an individual or legal entity of the rules and regulations of a particular State or Federal government agency. Administrative law usually does not involve a criminal proceeding. Proceedings under administrative law are decided by the governmental agency often by an administrative law judge, subject to review by a civil law judge.

The objectives of criminal law are usually to deter through punishment certain actions by individuals. A victim of a crime however, because on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the only party, cannot, in their own right, ask for and get, monetary compensation for the harm caused by the criminal behavior. In some circumstances, the Commonwealth or the United States may ask the court to order the defendant to pay “restitution” to a victim but the victim cannot do ask for this on their own as part of the criminal proceeding. The main benefit to a victim of a crime from a criminal proceeding comes from “closure” which comes from the knowledge that the state or federal government is punishing the person who has committed the crime.

In some circumstances, a victim of a crime can bring a separate civil action for money damages against a person who has committed a crime. Such a law suit is entirely independent of the criminal proceeding.

¹The information contained in this website is not legal advice but for general information purposes only. Please contact Attorney Truong for a consultation regarding your specific circumstances.