Criminal law pertains to punishment for a crime committed. Criminal cases are tried between the accused and the state. The state decides if the defendant is guilty of the charges and determines the punishment for the crime.
What is Crime?
According to the US legal system, crime is defined as any act of omission or violation of a law that prohibits the action or omission. Each state and federal government decides what activities are criminal activities.
Each state in the US decides what acts it deems as a crime. Hence, there are different “State codes” for criminal laws. Congress has specified certain acts as crimes. These crimes fall under federal criminal laws.
A crime is composed of three elements:
- The act of crime or Actus Reus
- The mental condition of the accused while committing the crime or Mens Rea
- Causation for the act and the effect
According to Title 18 of the US code for criminal laws, the acts that are specified as crimes include:
- Counterfeit and forgery
- Use of chemical weapons
Any of these crimes are liable for the maximum sentence for the guilty party.
In a criminal case, the “burden of proof” lies with the state. The public prosecutor is required to prove the accused guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal cases are tried in a court in front of a jury. The trial is presided over by a judge. The jury declares the verdict of guilty or not guilty after listening to the prosecution and defense attorneys. The judge assesses the legality of the verdict based on the case presentation by both attorneys. The judge determines the punishment for the crime and announces it to the court.
Crimes fall into four categories:
- Infraction: The least serious types of crimes fall in this category. An example of an infraction is a violation of a rule, ordinance, or law. Usually, the guilty party in an infraction needs to pay a fine to the state.
- Misdemeanors: These are more serious than infractions. In case of a misdemeanor, the guilty individual may be given a jail term of less than one year. Usually, they are required to complete the jail term in county jail instead of a high-security prison.
- Felonies: These are the most serious types of crimes in which the criminal may be given a jail sentence of more than one year. The federal government has prescribed a jail term of over one year for felonies. However, states are less strict in defining felonies.
- Inchoate offenses: Inchoate offenses are incomplete crimes that aid the final crime. Examples of inchoate offenses are abetment, attempt to murder, attempt to suicide, etc. These acts are also punishable under the US legal system.
- Strict Liability offenses: A strict liability offense is a voluntary act that causes a prohibited result. In such cases, the defendant’s state of mind or “mens rea” is not considered.
Criminal charges can have severe repercussions on an individual. Therefore, it is recommended that you hire a good criminal defense lawyer to represent you. Find the best criminal lawyers at Ward K Johnson Law Firm!