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The legal system in the U.S. has two parts. There is a criminal part and the civil part. You probably understand the criminal justice system because it handles crimes, including misdemeanors and felonies. Things such as a traffic ticket also fall into the Kentucky criminal system. The civil court system handles matters that are not criminal, such as disagreements or issues between individuals or an individual and a company.

The American Bar Association explains that the civil system also does not punish people in the same way as the criminal system. Any punishment is usually monetary. Sometimes, it may include issuing an apology or taking some action to rectify the situation, but almost every case includes a monetary judgment where the losing party must pay the winning party. Nobody will go to jail at the end of a civil trial.

The broken law determines which system a case goes into. Criminal laws go to the criminal system, and all others are civil in nature. The process of going to court is a little different. In criminal cases, the state is the prosecution and will take the necessary steps to start the case. In the civil system, you have to file a complaint to get things started.

As with the criminal system, you will go to court. There may be a jury, or a judge will hear your case. The roles usually have different titles as well. In criminal cases, there is the plaintiff and the defendant. In civil cases, these roles are usually called the petitioner and the respondent.

You will be able to introduce evidence and plead your case. The defendant or respondent has the right to defend his or herself, and you as the petitioner must prove your case because you still have the burden of proof just as the plaintiff in a criminal case has the burden of proof. This information is for education and is not legal advice.