Criminal law, or penal law, is the process in which the state prosecutes an individual for committing a criminal offense. The punishment for breaking a criminal law can include execution, incarceration (including solitary confinement), house arrest, parole, probation or fines, including seizing money and property. A criminal law attorney can help you deal with legal problems or complaints if you have been mistreated by police or other authorities; arrested or incarcerated.
A "crime" is any act or omission (of an act) in violation of a public law forbidding or commanding it. Though there are some common law crimes, most crimes in the United States are established by local, state, and federal governments and can vary significantly from state to state; however, the American Law Institute created the Model Penal Code, which serves as a guideline for all states, and to a person for an act that has been classified as a crime.
Criminal law differs from civil law in that criminal law seeks punishment (punitive damages) beyond the cost of the actual damages. (Civil law can only seek compensatory, or actual monetary, damages.)
United States Criminal CodeThe United States criminal code comprises criminal/penal laws which punish criminals for offenses against the State. The criminal code is a compilation of all the general and permanent laws which outline criminal offenses and the minimum and maximum punishments that the court can impose on an offender, which is also called the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
(A new edition of the Criminal Code is published by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel (LRC) every six years and a free electronic version of the criminal code is available online at the Cornell Legal Information Institute.)
The criminal code is broken into five categories:
Crimes fall into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are the more serious crimes (such as murder, rape, and perjury). Misdemeanors include crimes such as being drunk in public or committing an act of indecent public exposure. In criminal law, in order to find a person guilty, the prosecutor must establish "actus reus" (the guilty act) and "mens reas" (the guilty mind). Criminal law also deals with parole and probation (and violations thereof).
Criminal OffensesCriminal Law deals with: Arson, Assault, Battery, Bribery, Burglary, Child Abuse, Child Pornography, Computer Crimes, Controlled Substances, Credit Card Fraud , Criminal Defense, Drugs and Narcotics, DUI/DWI, Embezzlement, Fraud, Expungements, Felonies, Homicide, Identity Theft, Manslaughter, Money Laundering, Murder, Perjury, Prostitution, Rape, RICO, Robbery, Sex Crimes, Shoplifting, Theft, Weapons, White Collar Crime and Wire Fraud, among others.
Sex offenses (rape, child molestation, date rape, indecent exposure); drug offenses (selling and using); white collar crimes (embezzlement, forgery, credit card fraud, computer hacking); and violent offenses (assault, robbery, murder, kidnapping, hit and run) are criminal actions that take place regularly in American society. Typically, these crimes are actions that are disapproved of by American society and society and the courts have made these unapproved actions criminal offenses.
EnforcementCriminal law is enforced by the following punishments: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and restitution. It is believed that by imposing sanctions for the crime, society can achieve justice and a peaceable social order.
Retribution: A penalty aimed at making a criminal suffer in some way.
Deterrence: The penalty for criminal behavior is aimed at discouraging such behavior.
Incapacitation: The person committing criminal offences is removed from society by being jailed or given the death penalty.
Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation tries to transform the offender into a valuable member of society and aims to prevent further offenses.
Restitution: The offender may be required to repair the hurt inflicted on the victim, for example an embezzler will be required to repay the amount stolen.
Criminal Law Legal HelpYou should know your rights and a criminal lawyer can help you. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury from the state and district wherein the crime is alleged to have been committed; the right to be informed of the nature of the accusation against him, the right to confront witnesses against him and the right to have an attorney assist in his defense.
In a criminal case, the plaintiff's lawyer needs to present stronger evidence to obtain a criminal conviction than necessary to win a civil suit. It takes a unanimous decision by 12 jurors to convict someone of a federal crime. Criminal cases can be resolved without a trial if both sides agree and the judge concurs. The defendant may also act as his own attorney, if desired.
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