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Criminal Law or penal law, involves prosecution by the government of
a person for an act that has been classified as a crime. It is the body
of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal
punishment of criminal offenses. Civil cases, on the other
hand, involve individuals and organizations seeking to resolve legal
disputes. In a criminal case, the state, through a prosecutor, initiates
the suit, while in a civil case the victim brings the suit. Persons
convicted of a crime may be incarcerated, fined, or both. However,
persons found liable in a civil case may only have to give up property
or pay money, but are not incarcerated.
There are four theories of criminal
justice: punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. It
is believed that by imposing sanctions for the crime, society can
achieve justice and a peaceable social order.
Criminal Law deals with: Arson, Assault, Battery, Bribery, Burglary,
Child Abuse, Child Pornography, Computer Crimes, Controlled Substances,
Credit Card Fraud , Criminal Defense, Durgs and Narcotics, DUI/DWI,
Embezzlement, Fraud, Expungements, Felonies, Homicide, Identity Theft,
Manslaughter, Money Laundering, Murder, Perjury, Prostitution, Rape,
RICO, Robbery, Sex Crimes, Shoplifting, Theft, Weapons, White Collar
Crime and Wire Fraud among others.
Free Legal Forms for Criminal Law
A "crime" is any act or omission (of an act) in violation of a public
law forbidding or commanding it. Though there are some common law
crimes, most crimes in the United States are established by local,
state, and federal governments. Criminal laws vary significantly from
state to state. There is, however, a Model Penal Code (MPC) which serves
as a good starting place to gain an understanding of the basic structure
of criminal liability.
Crimes include both felonies (more serious offenses -- like murder or
rape) and misdemeanors (less serious offenses -- like petty theft or
jaywalking). Felonies are usually crimes punishable by imprisonment of a
year or more, while misdemeanors are crimes punishable by less than a
year. However, no act is a crime if it has not been previously
established as such either by statute or common law. Recently, the list
of Federal crimes dealing with activities extending beyond state
boundaries or having special impact on federal operations, has grown.
All statutes describing criminal behavior can be broken down into
their various elements. Most crimes (with the exception of
strict-liability crimes) consist of two elements: an act, or "actus reus,"
and a mental state, or "mens rea". Prosecutors have to prove each and
every element of the crime to yield a conviction. Furthermore, the
prosecutor must persuade the jury or judge "beyond a reasonable doubt"
of every fact necessary to constitute the crime charged. In civil cases,
the plaintiff needs to show a defendant is liable only by a
"preponderance of the evidence," or more than 50%.