Criminal law is the body of criminal law, which relates specifically to criminal behavior. It also prescribes criminal conduct, though not necessarily dangerous, threatening, or in a certain way endangering, to the physical property, social welfare, and moral well being of other people. In other words, criminal law seeks to protect individual rights, but also to ensure that the state has an interest in protecting those same individual rights. Criminal law falls under three separate categories: Misdemeanors, White Collar Crimes, and Criminal Burglaries.
Misdemeanors are lesser offenses with penalties that can result in limited fines, probation, community service, or imprisonment. A common example of a misdemeanor includes driving under the influence (DUI), shoplifting, conspiracy, tax evasion, harassment, and possessing a weapon in the commission of a crime. Each state has unique guidelines for setting forth the elements of a criminal procedure charge, including the factors that are considered by a jury in determining a defendant’s guilt or innocence. In most cases, state laws require a defendant to be held criminally responsible for all acts of violence or property destruction that were committed during the commission of the crime even if the act does not fall under the enumerated elements of the criminal procedure charge.
White Collar crimes are federal crimes that are punishable by prison terms of more than a year. Some examples of white collar crimes are: embezzlement, fraud, murder, conspiracy, transportation of stolen goods, conspiracy to launder money, and money laundering. Federal criminal laws also include: racketeering, bank robbery, terrorism, homicide, arson, assault, prostituting the services of a prostitute, assault and battery, bank fraud, forgery, identity theft, forgery and identity theft by a spouse. Criminal white collar crime charges are usually very serious and impose significant punishment on the individuals who are accused of such crimes. Most people convicted of white collar crimes face jail terms of more than 10 years.
Civil law is different from criminal law in many ways. Unlike criminal law, civil law does not require a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt of innocence. Additionally, there is no requirement that a person have been tried or convicted of the specific charged crime in order to be entitled to compensation. Therefore, civil law often involves a much broader range of possible punishments, which often results in more cases for the prosecutor.
Unlike criminal law, civil law does not require the presence of a state-mandated evidence of criminal conduct. Instead, a plaintiff who has been injured because another party’s act was liable may argue that his or her civil rights were violated through the defendant’s failure to act reasonably in a reasonable manner. While any sort of negligence may be considered a civil wrong, a plaintiff cannot raise a civil case against someone who has never been charged with a criminal crime. Similarly, a plaintiff cannot raise a civil case against an employer who allows his employee to engage in criminal conduct (e.g., drug use) without reprimand or firing.
Unlike criminal law, civil law is decided not by judges, but by federal courts that are restricted to the states’ offenses and laws. Federal criminal law is controlled by the U.S. Constitution, which grants broad deference to state law in regard to punishment. Although state criminal law often conflict with federal law, Congress has authorized judges to decide which state law governs the facts of the case. Federal judges do not have the same deference as state court decisions do when it comes to sentencing. That is why punishment is not determined by state law. In contrast, punishment is generally decided by federal district courts that have jurisdiction over the federal government.
Unlike criminal law, civil law does not require a finding of innocence. Rather, defendants must provide sufficient evidence to a judge or grand jury that their actions constitute criminal conduct. While it is always possible for a defendant to be found not guilty by a federal jury, most criminal charges result in a “guilty” verdict. Federal prosecutors do not need to prove innocence in order to present a defense. In many circumstances, it is better for a defendant to consult with a criminal defense attorney before he has any significant evidence presented in front of a prosecutor.
A criminal defense attorney can represent either the defendant or the state or both. In instances where state criminal charges are brought against someone else, the defendant may wish to retain the services of a criminal law attorney. This legal professional is familiar with local laws and their implications for the accused. This attorney will also have knowledge of any defenses the client may present. In civil suits, a plaintiff’s attorney may also be necessary to protect the plaintiff’s right to bring a lawsuit. These are just some of the reasons a criminal attorney is needed for a defendant facing civil lawsuits.