The Difference Between Civil Law And Common Law

Simply put, civil law pertains to a crime committed against a person, whereas common law sets penalties for those who commit a crime against the government or the country. Civil law is also sometimes called the Roman civil law and the common law is known as the law of England or the continental law. In common law, cases are the primary source of law and the system works on reasoning by analogy. Whereas in civil law system, the primary source of law is the legislation and the methodology of codification is followed. There are also some similarities between the two bodies of law.

Crimes against the state or the government include murder, robbery, sabotage, treason, rape, etc. In some countries one may not criticize the government publicly or they may get a prison sentence. Violations of the rights of people come under civil law. These include discrimination and improper treatment of individuals based on certain characteristics, such as age, sex, race, disability, and religion. Civil law is written and passed in the form of bills or acts. If a person thinks his or her civil rights have been violated, they can easily turn to one such written document, present it to the person who committed the infringement and negotiate for settlement.

Common law may or may not be written in statutes. A case has to be filed in the court of law to demand a verdict against the party who committed the crime. The legal institutions of common law include trust, tort law, estoppel and agency. Common law is more complicated than civil law. A case has to be conducted in the common law system by collecting facts and analogies and then basing the decision on those facts. Common law courts are not bound by examples and they may take several years to come upon a decision. Likewise, civil law does not entirely depend on precedent.

Decisions of the civil court are known as jurisprudence. These decisions are merely reflections of the code of principles. There are several classes of civil law, such as law of persons, law of obligations, law of evidence, law of publication of rights, and so on. The three institutions of civil law are legislative, executive and judiciary. In common law, contract and tort are considered as separate branches of law. At every step during a common law case, pre-defined procedures and traditions have to be followed.

Despite these differences, it has been established that common law and civil law can work together in the same country. It is possible to move from one law to another. Both laws are offspring of the Western political and cultural history. However, their legal histories are quite diverse and so is their language. Judicial opinions in common law are usually lengthy citing with detailed references. On the other hand, legal opinions in civil law are informal and short. These differences may become a hindrance while translating from one law to the other, but they certainly do not pose any problems when the two laws are required to work in collaboration.