TexasLawHelp & Criminal Law
Authored By: Texas Legal Service Center
- Information "The Texas Criminal Justice Process: A Citizen's Guide" by the Criminal Justice Section of the State Bar of Texas.
"What kind of law do you do?"
One of the most common questions that a lawyer may be asked is, "What kind of law do you do?" This question can be answered many different ways because the law is broken up into many different categories and areas. One important distinction is between Civil and Criminal law.
Criminal Law vs. Civil Law
Criminal law deals with crimes against the state, where possible punishment could include jail time, prision time, probation, or parole. This is the type of law that involves prosecutors, defense attorneys, charges, and convictions. Criminal cases begin when someone is accused of committing a crime that is listed in the Texas Penal Code.
TexasLawHelp does not offer help or provide comprehensive information on criminal law topics. The terms of our funding do not allow us to.
For more information about the Texas Criminal Justice Process, including: the way that crimes are classified, the rights of crime victims and of those accused of committing crimes, what to expect in criminal proceedings, common terms and much more you can read:
Civil law is the law that controls non-criminal issues. Civil lawsuits generally do not result in jail time or "punishment". Instead, the outcome of a civil case is usually an order from a judge that one person pay another person money to make up for a harm that they caused, handling a family law (custody, divorce, etc.) matter, or that someone stop behaving in a way that interferes with another person's individual rights.
This type of law can involve plaintiffs, defendants, petitioners, respondents, claims, petitions, motions, remedies and relief. Civil cases generally begin when a plaintiff files a petition with the court based on a specific cause of action. A list of causes of action can be found at your local law library. TexasLawHelp offers free, civil legal advice to low-income Texans and variety of resources that provide free and reliable information about civil legal issues.
Do you need help finding a court appointed attorney?
If you have been charged with a crime but cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to assistance from a court appointed attorney. Court appointed attorneys are generally not available to help with civil cases, an exception is if someone is trying to terminate your parental rights without your consent. The process for requesting a court appointed attorney can be different throughout the state, however it is very important that you be diligent and thorough in making your request.
The Texas Fair Defense Project is an organization with a mission to " improve the fairness of Texas’s criminal courts and ensure that all Texans have access to justice." Click here for more information from TFDP about how to request a court appointed attorney. You may also contact TFDP if you think that your request for an attorney was improperly denied, you have been detained without an attorney who can advocate for your release, or you have been incarcerated or threatened with incarceration because you cannot afford to pay a fee, fine or other criminal justice debt.
Are you trying to help a loved one who is currently incarcerated?
If you want to help a loved one who is currently in jail or prison, the Texas Inmate Families Association might be able to help you. This organization provides support, information and advocacy for members. Click here for more information from TIFA about resources that can help you support your incarcerated loved one.