This is a good question. It’s asked of me more than any other questions.
These are examples of criminal matters:
Robberies, rapes, murders, all thefts, burglaries, dui’s, batteries, sex crimes, etc.
These are examples of civil matters:
Repossesion of any properties, garnishments, rental disputes, etc.
The best way to tell if a charge, allegation, or matter is civil or criminal in nature is to research the penalty. In other words, if the penalty can result in jail time, it’s a criminal matter. If the penalty is a fine or loss of the subject at hand, that’s civil.
Please keep this in mind though, in rare circumstances a civil matter can end up criminally.
An example: You purchase a vehicle, can’t pay the car note, and a repossesion order is placed on your vehicle. The ‘repo’ man comes to take possession. As he begins to take your vehicle you get into a physical struggle with him to prevent it. You hit him! Now you can be charge with battery. Your best defense in this kind of circumstance is to let him have it. You can always purchase another vehicle. It’s not worth it to go to jail and STILL lose your vehicle.
The above example can also apply with garnishments, rental disputes or any other matter. The important thing to remember is not to escalate the civil matter into a criminal matter. In most cases you will still lose coupled with jail time. Not worth it!
Take care, drive safe, and obey the laws.