What is Criminal Law?
The purpose of the law is to draw as clear a line as possible between what is considered to be acceptable and what is considered to be unacceptable conduct within a society. The term criminal law refers both to the set of laws governing the citizens within a jurisdiction and to how criminal procedure works. The complexities of criminal procedure can make it difficult terrain even for many lawyers to navigate. This is why it is important for those accused of committing serious crimes to entrust their cases only to experienced criminal law attorneys with a history of successful representation.
A crime is defined as any behavior that is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. In the United States, the federal congress or a state legislative body defines which behaviors are considered criminal. Usually, these are acts that are believed to be unacceptable by a majority of people within a society. Of course, the American legal system operates on the premise that the criminally accused are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and that the rights of every citizen are inviolable unless a finding of guilt empowers the government to restrict those rights. If you have been accused of a crime, a proven criminal law attorney can build as strong a case as possible on your behalf and defend your rights in court.
Criminal cases punishable by law generally fall under the following categories:
- Violent crimes
- Drug and alcohol-related crimes, including DUI cases
- Sex crimes
- White collar crime
- Appeals/post-conviction relief
- Juvenile law
- Other crimes
Types of Crime
There are two major types of crime: felonies and misdemeanors. The difference between these two types of crime is defined by the potential punishment for committing them. Talk to a criminal law attorney in your state to learn more about the punishments in misdemeanor and felony cases.
A felony is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for longer than one year. Common felonies include:
A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for a year or less. Common misdemeanors include:
- Petty theft
- Driving under the influence
- Minor in possession of alcohol
Elements of Crime
There are two basic elements of crime: the guilty act (actus reus) and the guilty mind (mens rae). A guilty act is defined as an act that, when combined with certain mental state (guilty mind) such as intent, is considered a crime. For example, the act of robbery requires that the criminal take something (guilty act) with the intent (guilty mind) to deprive the owner of the object. In other words, a crime is committed when a guilty act is combined with a guilty mind. Talk to a criminal law lawyer for more information.
Contact a Criminal Law Attorney for a Review of Your Case
If you or someone you love has been accused of a crime, you may want to contact a criminal law attorney for more information specific to your case. A criminal law lawyer may be able to get your case dismissed, or reduce your sentence.