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Is this a true legal issue?

First you need to determine whether you have a legal issue or simply a problem. Maybe you don’t like your downstairs neighbor playing loud music during the day. But, if they’re not breaking any laws, what you have is a personal matter, not a legal one.

Can I sue?

If you’ve determined that your problem is a legal one, you might be wondering if you can sue. While in theory you can pretty much sue anyone for anything, the reality is that doing so is often a waste of time and money. It’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney to determine whether you can take your suit to court. You might consider mediation or arbitration first.

Is this a criminal matter or a civil matter?

There are two main types of legal issues: criminal matters and civil matters. In criminal cases, the government prosecutes the case. In civil cases, the person bringing the suit hires an attorney to prosecute. If you’ve been arrested, you’re looking at a criminal matter, but depending on the circumstances, it could be a civil matter as well.

Civil lawsuits are easier to win because the burden of proof is lower. And it’s not necessarily one or the other. There can be a criminal case and a civil case for the same matter. If you’re considering whether or not to sue someone, or you have been sued, you’re looking at a civil matter.

What about municipal, state, and federal laws?

Federal, state, and local governments each have their own sets of laws. Your legal issue will likely fall under one of these three categories. Depending on your issue, you may want to research all three.

For any legal issue, make sure you do it in the correct court and consult with an attorney to figure out which court to file in.