Unlike civil law, which involves private law suits between two or private entities; Criminal Defense Law
involves prosecution by the state or federal government of a person or business for an act that has been classified as a crime. Any act or omission of an act in violation of a public law forbidding or commanding it is considered a "crime." With the exception of strict liability crimes, most crimes consist of three elements: an act (actus reus), a mental state (mens rea) and the intent to do social harm. Crimes are classified as "misdemeanors" (less serious offenses that are normally punishable by a fine like some traffic violations, petty theft, or possession of a small amount of marijuana) and "felonies" (more serious offenses that warrant imprisonment of one or more years, such as rape, grand theft, assault and battery, assault with a deadly weapon, or homicide/murder).
In Criminal Defense Law, the suit is initiated by the state or federal government through a prosecutor rather than being initiated by the victim, as it is in civil law. Plaintiffs in a civil law suit only need to show by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant is 51% or more liable (responsible) for the damages. But, the prosecutor in a criminal defense law case has to prove to the judge or jury "beyond the shadow of a doubt" that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged.