Examples of Criminal Law
Criminal law is the branch of law that deals with the punishment of people and entities that break laws. It deals with behaviors that are or can be construed as offenses against the public, society or the state, even if a crime affects a private individual. In this context, the term state can refer to a particular state’s laws’ but it is used as a general term to denote a government, be it local, state, or federal. Examples of common crimes that people are charged with in the United States include but are not limited to, murder, assault, theft and driving while intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs, including prescription and over the counter ones.
Only the federal or state government may initiate a criminal charge against a person or entity. State and local law enforcement agencies typically arrest and charge people with crimes but the prosecution’s legal fight to convict the accused is usually The State, as represented by a lawyer employed by the government that is trying the case, versus the (name of the) accused.
When someone is charged with a crime and cannot afford to hire a lawyer, typically the state will offer to appoint a public defender, which is a lawyer who is paid for by the state. Even though it is not often recommended that people accused of crimes try to run their own defense during a criminal case, if a person accused of a crime can prove to the courts that they are mentally and physically fit enough to do this, they may be allowed to go forth with representing themselves against the prosecution. If the accused can afford to hire their own lawyer, they typically may do this without restrictions from the court.
Criminal trials are usually argued before a judge and a jury where the judge supervises the courtroom proceedings but under the judge’s instructions, the jury decides the outcome of the case. This kind of trial is referred to as a jury trial. To convict someone of a crime a jury has to be 100% unanimous that the accused is guilty. Even though it is not as common, criminal trials are sometimes tried before a judge where they are the only person or entity involved in the deciding the outcome of the case. This kind of trial is referred to as a bench trial.
Punishments for crime are typically incarceration but many convictions come with other penalties such as fines imposed by the court. Some crimes also come with penalties from other agencies, such as those that issue licenses or security clearances, as well as penalties by default, such as increases in insurance premiums.
Protections for the Accused
United States citizens are protected under the Fourth Amendment from unreasonable searches and seizures by police, and from other law enforcement agencies or government entities. The Fifth Amendment protects people against compelled self-incrimination which is, implicating oneself of a crime or exposing oneself to criminal prosecution.
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