Criminal law is the area of our justice system that relates to behavior that is dangerous to the public, or damaging to society. This behavior labeled as “crime” is punishable by monetary fines, prison or jail sentences, or other means of punishment. What exactly is labeled a crime, and what its corresponding punishment is varies depending on the state or federal government where the crime is committed.
Criminal law deals with a wide variety of crimes, these crimes range from simple traffic violations, to much more serious charges, such as murder or rape. As you can see criminal law does not handle disputes between individuals, instead it handles cases where the state or federal government prosecute “criminals.”
A defendant is the person who is charged with a crime. The prosecutor is the state or federal government’s representation in the case. In order for a prosecutor to prove you are guilty of committing the crime you are charged with, there are two facts the prosecutor must first prove. The first fact is that defendant committed a crime, the second is that the defendant committed the crime with intention.
In criminal law, crimes are divided into three major categories that define the seriousness of the crime. Infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies are the three categories, we will go into each one with a little more detail below.
Infractions are the least serious of criminal charges, and are most commonly driving violations, such as speeding tickets, reckless driving, and parking tickets. Infractions are always non-violent crimes, and a person who receives an infraction will usually receive a fine, points in their license, and sometimes an informal probation.
When it comes to misdemeanors, most defendant will typically face less than a year in a county jail, sometimes even avoid a jail sentence altogether. Often you will also receive monetary fines and be subject to probation after being convicted of a misdemeanor. Some misdemeanors may be charged as felonies if they are repeat offenses, such as a DUI. Other examples of misdemeanor crimes include, vandalism, theft, and driving with a suspended license.
Felonies are the most serious of charges and are usually punished by long prison sentences, and in the most serious cases sometimes death. Murder, Rape, and robbery are a few examples of felonies, when charged with a felony it is necessary to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Punishments for felonies are the most serious, they typically consist of long prison sentences, and large monetary fines.
While you can choose to represent yourself for any crime, if you are charged with a serious crime it is important to find an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to help you defend yourself. Even in the less serious crimes, the counsel of an attorney will often lead to charges being reduced or dismissed.