Criminal Law Attorney

Criminal Law Attorney

Criminal law focuses on punishing people for committing crimes against the state.  Civil law, in contrast, is the body of law used when a crime is committed against an individual, company, or non-profit organization. 

The outcome of a criminal law proceeding is some form of redress against the convicted criminal that provides society with criminal justice, or some form of reparation.

Crimes Committed Against Society

Criminal law focuses primarily on crimes that are committed against society and the laws governing and protecting the social order.

Agents of the government are responsible for catching and prosecuting criminals and a system of justice is set up to keep criminals from committing criminal acts.

Criminal law seeks to punish offenders and to keep others in society from committing crimes as well.

Elements of Criminal Offences

There are two main elements of all criminal offences:  “actus reus” and “mens rea.” 

Actus Reus

There must be a physical act for someone to commit the crime and break the law, this is known as “actus reus” which translates to “guilty act” from Latin. These acts are also known as external elements and can be further broken down into four main categories:  conduct, circumstance, consequence, and cause. 

In criminal law a charge usually contains one or more of these actus reus elements.  It is a prosecutor’s job to prove the charged acts beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the crime to have legally been committed.

Mens Rea

Mens rea is the state of mind of the criminal when they were committing or planning to commit the crime. Mens rea has to include that the criminal purposely, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently committed the physical acts of the crime.

Some criminal law trials include a strict liability type of mens rea, wherein a criminal’s mental state does not play a part in the conviction for their crimes (such as a person who manufactures a defective product). 

Punishing the Criminal

When a criminal trial proves that mens rea and actus reus occurred then it has legally proven a criminal law case and the system moves to the act of punishing the criminal.

Criminal law is in charge of doling out punishments depending on a variety of factors. A criminal law trial may be held without a victim or without anyone’s consent.

Unlike civil lawsuits, criminal lawsuits may occur even when a victim does not wish to prosecute, and the state’s agents find evidence that leads them to suspect criminal activity.

Trial Stages

When a person is charged with a crime they can be appointed an attorney at the cost of the state, they can also hire their own counsel or defend themselves. During the pre-trial and trial stages, charges and evidences are uncovered which are presented before a court of law, and sometimes before a jury. 

Criminal law then dictates that the state passes some judgment on the convicted criminal, which may be as benign as a warning or as severe as the death penalty, depending on where the crime took place and where the criminal was tried.

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