Basics of Criminal Law

Basics of Criminal Law


For most people, their knowledge of the criminal law is fragmented, mainly from movies, television and books. However, when we are personally involved in issues of criminal law, the problems of real life stand out and the need of information and assistance can arise quickly. This overview explains the basics of the criminal law: criminal law, parts of criminal law and its procedures and the possible outcome of a criminal case. We also provide links to more introductory information about the criminal law.

[alert-note]If you are charged for a crime, it is important to contact a lawyer immediately to protect and analyze your rights.[/alert-note]

The Criminal Laws and Their Sources

When a society and its government decide that certain conduct is dangerous to citizens or damaging to society as a whole, such conduct is classified as a “crime” and is punishable by sanctions such as fines and prison sentences. Most of the offences identified in the laws that have been enacted by the legislatures of the governments at the federal, state, and local response to the issues that affect the jurisdiction. For example, a city may determine that it is a crime to be drunk in public, while the federal government decides bank robbery is a federal crime, since most of the banks are insured by the federal government.

Criminal law describes the type of conduct that has been criminalized as a crime, the mindset or intent required, and in some cases, the appropriate punishment. For example, the following laws on “theft at home” belong to the Penal Code of California:

Article 459. Any person who enters into a home, room, apartment, rental, store, warehouse, factory, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel, [etc]… with the intent to commit a theft qualified or less or a felony is guilty of second-degree burglary.

Article 461. The second-degree burglary is punishable as follows:

  • Second-degree burglary in the first degree: Imprisonment in the state prison for two, four or six years.
  • Second-degree burglary in the second degree: Imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or in state prison.

The person found to be in violation of a criminal law whether through their own admission in the plead “guilty” or as a result of a trial before a jury) can receive a punishment through the imposition of fines, imprisonment, probation and community service, among other penalties.

The System of Criminal Law: The Parties and The Procedure

The “system” of criminal law encompasses in itself the entire criminal process, from investigation and arrest through to sentence and the sentence, and the people who play a role in that process: the accused, police officers, prosecutors, bail agents, criminal attorneys, judges, witnesses, probation officers and prison officers.

At all stages of the criminal process, a person suspected or accused of a crime have certain fundamental rights that derive from the Constitution of the united States and the failure key. These include the right to a lawyer and the right to a speedy trial before a jury. These constitutional rights provide a balance between the government’s interest in ensuring that we identify and punish the criminal conduct and the fundamental need to preserve and promote the individual freedoms that characterize a democratic society.

[alert-announce]See also: Classification of crimes in the United States [/alert-announce]

The result: How you could end a criminal case?

The outcome of any criminal case depends upon the crime charged, the validity of the evidence, the legal validity of law enforcement and judicial proceedings, and of the objectives and the strategy of the government and the defense. When all is said and done, there may be no legal consequence for a person charged with a crime, because the charges are dropped, or a jury trial could lead to a criminal conviction.

Some of the possible outcomes of a criminal case are:

  • A criminal investigation ends without any arrests.
  • A person is arrested and accused of a crime, what makes an agreement with the government, agreeing to plead “guilty” in exchange for some type of leniency, such as a more lenient sentence.
  • A person is arrested and charged, but before the case reaches a jury, the court dismisses it because the charges depend on evidence illegally seized by the police.
  • A person is brought to trial and declared, “not guilty,” or acquitted, by a jury.
  • A person is convicted by a jury and sentenced to a long prison sentence.

The process of the criminal law can be very difficult with a lot of stress. If charged for a crime, it is important to contact a lawyer immediately to protect and analyze their rights.

Watch Criminal Law Information: Basics of Criminal Law

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