What Is the Meaning of Criminal Law?

According to Cornell University Law School, criminal law refers to the governmental prosecution of a defendant for a crime committed in violation of current laws. Criminal law cases can result in fines as well as incarceration.

In criminal law, a prosecutor for the state must prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." A person who is found not guilty in a criminal case can still be sued by a victim in civil court. In a civil case, the requirement is to find a defendant liable based upon a "preponderance of the evidence." If a plaintiff wins in a civil suit, the defendant is not incarcerated, however the victim receives monetary payment or property as compensation.