What do you know about criminal law? This is a branch of the criminal justice system that deals with how the law that relates to crime and punishments of those found to have violated these laws. The major distinction between criminal law and civil law is whereas the latter deals with dispute resolution and victim compensation while the former deals with punishment or rehabilitation. A crime is any act or omission in violating the law that prohibits that action. A criminal prosecution entails the government deciding whether to punish an individual or not.
When you’re convicted, getting an experienced criminal defense attorney who will go above and beyond to ensure that not only are your rights and liberties respected but also guarantee a fair judgement. The purpose of the law is to guarantee innocence until proven guilty through the availing of evidence once you are apprehended and charged. We will review elements of criminal law to provide a better understanding of what it is and how it operates.
Elements Of Criminal Law
The basic elements of a crime include;
- Actus Reus – Latin for a guilty act, this is the physical element of committing a crime. This may be accomplished by an action, the threat of an action, or the omission of action.
- Mens rea – Latin for the guilty mind, this is the mental element of a crime. A guilty mind means an intention to commit a wrongful act.
- Proximate causation – This means that the event is sufficiently related to an event where the court’s burden of proof is to establish every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Types of crimes
Criminal acts can be characterized in to the following categories:
- Felony – These are the type of crimes that are viewed severely by society and usually involve an element of violence. Examples of these include; murder, rape, burglary, kidnapping, or arson. Punishment is meted out through imprisonment of not less than one year. Criminal law attorneys specialize in ensuring that you get justifiable punishment once you are found guilty of a felony. The punishment must match the crime.
- Misdemeanor – This type of criminal act is punishable by less than twelve months in jail or through other means such as; community service, probation, and fines. Examples of such crimes include driving under the influence (DUI), petty theft, prostitution, public intoxication, simple assault, shoplifting, vandalism, and indecent exposure. The punishment is meant to discipline the miscreant while also discouraging others from engaging in such acts.
- Inchoate offenses – These are criminal offenses committed in the process of committing the final crime, that is it helps in the commission of the final crime. The basic inchoate offenses include; attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy. Punishment of crimes not fully committed raises the probability of sanctions where imprisonment or fines suffice.
- Strict liability crimes – In this type of crime, the guilty mind doesn’t have to be proven concerning one or more elements of the guilty act. Defendants can still be convicted even though they were genuinely ignorant of one or more factors that made their actions criminal. A well-known example of a strict liability crime is statutory rape. This is where an individual has consensual sex with a person not recognized by the law as an adult.
We will now examine sentencing guidelines once you are convicted of a crime.
- Retribution – This type of punishment requires that when one breaks the law, justice requires that they suffer in return and the response must be proportionate to the crime. As opposed to revenge, retributive justice is not personal, is directed only at the wrongdoing, has inherent limits, and involves no pleasure at all at the suffering of others. An example of retributive justice may include the death penalty for those accused of murder.
- Rehabilitation – This type of punishment is intended to apply training and treatment to the offender and make them capable of returning to society and operating as law-abiding citizens. This form is regarded as a more humane form of punishment to retribution and deterrence. This form is more preferred since research has shown that it reduces the chances of recidivism. Some examples of this type of punishment include; victim-offender mediation, restitution, family group conferencing, victim impact classes, and community restorative boards.
- Deterrence – This form of punishment theorizes that criminal penalties not only punish violators but also discourage other people from committing similar criminal acts. This underpins the functioning of the criminal justice system in that the crime rate can be reduced by raising the expected cost of criminal activity. The elements of this form of punishment include; the probability of arrest, the probability of conviction, and the severity of punishment.
- Incapacitation – This form of punishment refers to making the miscreant incapable of committing a crime. Historically, this was achieved through banishment or execution but in modern times, this is done through lengthy periods of incarceration. The most common forms of incapacitating offenders are incarceration and capital punishment. The former entails removing the guilty individual from society for longer periods of time and limiting their freedoms and liberties. The latter means that once the offender is imprisoned, the criminal justice system usually mets out a harsher sentence such as the death sentence.
Whether you are charged with minor or major offenses, getting the right criminal lawyer goes a long way in ensuring you get a fair sentence. From lighter crimes such as driving while drunk to major ones such as assault, rape, or murder, hiring the right attorney assures that your interaction with the criminal justice system won’t leave you traumatized. Law and order is the mark of a civilized society and whenever a crime is committed, a reprieve needs to be offered while also providing the offender an opportunity to work on their behavior. This helps in ensuring that life and property are secured for the smooth functioning of society. It’s imperative for the rights of the offender and the offended to be observed and respected throughout the process.
Infographic Created By Zoukis Consulting Group, Providing Experienced Legal Assistance With Federal Crimes and Charges
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