Criminal Law

In the United States certain actions have been determined to be dangerous for United States citizens. Criminal laws are developed by the federal, state and local governments. Criminal laws have been created to determine when an individual has committed any act that is considered a crime. The local, state and federal governments are responsible for creating and prosecuting any individual who commits a crime. The prosecuting attorney for the area where the crime has been committed will act for the government to try the case.

A crime can be any act which is prohibited by law. Any action which has been labeled a crime can have punishment ranging from fines to imprisonment or even death. Crimes are labeled felonies for very serious crimes and misdemeanors for less serious crimes. Punishment for crimes varies greatly. A felony can result in a year or more of imprisonment, while a misdemeanor is generally punished with less then a year of incarceration, a fine or both a fine and imprisonment.


There are several different types of Crimes that can be committed. Generally, crimes are defined as crimes against property, crimes against a person, crimes against justice, or crimes in progress but not yet completed. Crimes against a person can be murder, rape, assault, battery and kidnapping. Examples of crimes against property can include trespassing, burglary, and arson. Crimes against justice could include bribery and perjury. Crimes in progress but not necessarily completed could include solicitation, conspiracy, or attempted murder.

If a crime has been committed, most states require either a complaint or indictment be filed against the defendant. In order to charge a defendant there must be probable cause to determine whether they committed the crime.

Under the Fifth and Sixth Amendment and various case laws (such as the Miranda ruling), the defendant is protected from unlawful interrogation by the police. After the defendant has been charged with a crime, they are guaranteed several rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. The United States Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy public trial. This trial must be held before an impartial jury and the defendant must understand the charges being brought against him.

He has the right to face his witnesses, the right not to testify against himself, and the right to have counsel. If he can not afford counsel he has the right to have counsel provided for him. He must have adequate time to gather his own defense witnesses and prepare his criminal case. The state will have a prosecuting attorney who will argue the state's case.

Most crimes have two parts. The first part is the act or crime which has been committed. The second component is the mental state of the perpetrator. In order to for the prosecutor to "win" his case he must first prove a crime has occurred and then persuade the jury "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the defendant is guilty of the crime for which he has been charged. This is unlike a civil trial where the prosecuting attorney must only prove that the defendant is liable through a "preponderance of evidence" or that he is more then 50% liable for the crime.

If the defendant is found guilty of the crime they are allowed to appeal their case to a higher court. If the appeals have been exhausted and the defendant has been found guilty of the charges brought against him, he must serve his sentence or pay fines or both. He is protected under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution from "cruel or excessive punishment".

Criminal Law Term of the Day


An arrest is the act of being physically taken into police custody without the legal right to leave.

Category: Criminal Law

Question of the Day

What is a complicity charge and the length of its term it can carry

If you have been charged with complicity the state is alleging you have aided, facilitated, or assisted another person in the commission of a crime.

Category: Criminal Law

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