Criminal law addresses the need to investigate crimes, prosecute defendants, and hold offenders accountable, usually through penitentiary, jail or probationary sentences. Common criminal law issues would be driving under the influence of intoxicants, a gun-point robbery of a convenience store, homicide, and rape. The District Attorney (Prosecutor) prosecutes criminal cases in court, and must prove the guilt of accused defendants beyond a reasonable doubt (much higher than civil law).
Civil law addresses situations in which people have been harmed, and an economic award might help remedy the situation rather than jail. Examples of civil law cases include divorce, disputes involving property ownership, and contractual disputes. Private attorneys generally handle both sides of a dispute involving civil law, and the issues in civil court most often need to be proven only by a preponderance of the evidence (much less than criminal law).