What is Criminal Law?
Criminal law involves a system of legal rules designed to keep the public safe and deter wrongful conduct. Those who violate the law face incarceration, fines, and other penalties. The American criminal justice system is both complex, and adversarial in nature. With the exception of minor traffic violations, accused individuals will require the assistance of an attorney.
Specific crimes and the consequences for violating them are found in penal codes enacted by legislators at the local, state, and federal levels. Less serious crimes are classified as misdemeanors. These typically carry a maximum of up to one year in the county jail. Examples include petty theft, possession of small amounts of controlled substances, and first-offense drunk driving.
Crimes of a more serious nature are classified as felonies. These carry punishments of a year or more in state or federal prison. Felonies include violent crimes like murder, burglary, and rape, as well as white collar crimes like embezzlement and money laundering.
When questions arise as to how criminal statutes should be interpreted, judges and lawyers turn to previously issued court opinions dealing with the same issues. This principal is known as “stare decisis.” It means that once a court issues a decision involving a given set of circumstances, that ruling is binding precedent for similar disputes that come before the court on a later date.
Law enforcement agencies have the responsibility of investigating alleged crimes. Procedural rules are in place to ensure police officers respect the constitutional rights of the citizens they investigate. When a defense attorney challenges the legality of a criminal prosecution, most times the dispute is a result of procedural violations by the police.
Protecting Your Rights.
Each stage of a criminal prosecution presents traps for defendants who are not familiar with the court system. Criminal defense attorneys are trained to prevent their clients from doing or saying things that will increase the likelihood of conviction. But when legal counsel has not been hired or appointed, accused individuals can unknowingly waive their rights and harm their own interests.
For example, following an arrest, law enforcement will question a suspect in regards to the crime. The officers will inform the suspect of his or her “Miranda rights” (right to remain silent, right to an attorney), and then attempt to elicit a confession. Without a lawyer present, defendants can make incriminating statements that will later be used against them in court.
In both misdemeanors and felonies, an arraignment will be held in open court. The judge will explain the nature of the charges to the defendant and ask for a plea. Without the assistance of an attorney, defendants will often plead guilty at this initial stage. By doing so, they are giving up important rights, as well as the opportunity to negotiate the terms of their sentence beforehand.
Discovery proceedings are another critical stage in a criminal case. This is when the defendant can demand that the prosecutor turn over copies of all of the evidence gathered by law enforcement. In DUI and DWI cases especially, the police reports, lab results, video recordings, and other items will likely determine whether the case settles or continues on to trial. To make informed decisions, the defendant must obtain these materials.
If the state fails to offer a plea bargain the defendant is willing to accept, the case will proceed to trial. This is the time to question witnesses and present argument to the jury. Conducting a trial is not for the layperson to attempt. Legal training is needed to perform effective cross-examination, comply with the rules of evidence, and so forth. After all, the outcome may determine whether the defendant walks free, or goes to jail.
Criminal Law – Know your Rights!
Are 3D Printed Plastic Guns Legal?
The arrival of 3D printing technology has led to some amazing new possibilities for things like replicating broken parts, creating amazing works of 3D art, and manufacturing entire items from patters found online. But, as is usually the case with any new technology, someone finds a way to use it for something sinister. Several creators invented 3D printed plastic guns and made plans available online. But, are these 3D printed plastic guns legal?
Are Arrest Records Public?
The general rule is that arrest records are public records. However, each state can determine whether they wish for such records to be readily available to the public
How Do You Get Out of Jail After an Arrest?
Generally, one can get out of jail by posting bail. Bail is usually cash or a piece of property pledged to the court as part of a promise that the defendant (the person who has been arrested) will return to court when ordered to do so.
How Much Can You Legally Get Away With Saying to a Cop?
First, a word of warning: doing anything to aggravate a police officer is a really bad idea. Not only are these hard working men and women who likely want to make the world a better place through their work, but they are trained bad asses with guns, handcuffs, and nightsticks and they can really make your life unpleasant.
How to Get a Criminal Record Expunged
Expungement refers to the process of sealing arrest and conviction records. Virtually every state has enacted laws that allow people to expunge arrests and convictions from their records, but the details will vary from state to state.
Is a Polygraph Test Admissible as Evidence?
Have you ever wondered why, in a system of justice that relies so heavily upon people telling the truth, every witness is not strapped to a polygraph machine (i.e., a lie detector)? It is a logical question that leads to others about how interrogations and investigations are conducted when polygraphs are used. So, is a polygraph test admissible as evidence?
Saying No to Police Searches
Police are trained to believe in their authority and trained to perform their interactions with private citizens with confidence and strength.
Victimized by the Law: Weird Examples of Penalties Against Crime Victims
For example, we have all heard the stories about the burglar who breaks into a home and injures himself then suing the homeowner.
What Happens if I Am Not Read My Rights?
While many believe that if they are not “read their rights” they will escape punishment for criminal acts, it is not quite so clear cut. Instead, if one is not read their rights, then any evidence obtained from the suspect prior to being advised of their Miranda Rights may be inadmissible as evidence at trial.
What is an Alibi and How Does it Work?
In simplest terms, an alibi is merely evidence that demonstrates a defendant in a criminal case was somewhere other than the scene of a crime at the time that the crime occurred.
What is the Difference Between Jail and Prison?
At the most basic level, the fundamental difference between jail and prison is the length of stay for inmates.
What Kinds of Defenses Can I Use in a Criminal Case?
All people accused of a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty, either in a trial or as a result of pleading guilty.
When Should You Accept a Plea Bargain in your Criminal Case?
Under that kind of stress, it can be very tempting to accept the first plea offer made to you by the prosecutor.
Articles About Criminal Law
Healthcare Providers Face New Legal Risks in Prescribing Opioids
In recent months, both the State of Wisconsin and the United States Government have put healthcare providers on notice that their prescribing practices are being scrutinized.
Texas Rules About Dram Shop and Sexual Assault
Dram shop rules usually hold a bar or establishment that serves liquor to customers to the point that the individual cannot make basic judgments correctly or for the best based on the circumstances. If the customer is too drunk or partially inebriated, he or she is unable to stop a sexual assault when connected to another service or when in a non-private location.
Parents Who Lie at a Family Custody Hearing – Are Perjury Charges Possible?
If one of the parents lies during a family custody hearing when attempting to acquire custody of the child from the marriage, it is possible that this activity can cause severe detriment to the case before the judge. While the civil remedies are often at an extreme limit, the other parent’s case may gain strength because of the deception presented.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a DUI?
After a DUI arrest, you may wonder if you need a lawyer to represent you. You may also have questions about the benefits of hiring a drunk driving defense attorney. Hiring a lawyer may be expensive, and you must weigh the benefits versus the cost of retaining counsel.
Restraining Orders in California: Order Against Michael Avenatti Upheld
A Los Angeles judge has upheld a temporary restraining order against lawyer Michael Avenatti after he was accused of domestic violence by his former girlfriend, actress Mareli Miniutti.
New Law Requires Breathalyzers in Cars of Convicted Drunk Drivers in California
A new DUI prevention law that requires convicted drunk drivers to install breathalyzer-connected devices to their vehicles went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
Virginia’s Law on the Solicitation of a Minor
The solicitation of a minor in the state of Virginia is the involvement of a minor to enter into sexual relations and is both a state and federal crime that can lead to serious consequences on both fronts. The penalties are more severe when the youth is under a certain age or when there is a greater difference in age between the two parties than three years.
Virginia’s Sex Trafficking Laws
Prosecutors in Virginia are aggressively pursuing charges against people they suspect of being involved in sex trafficking. It is vital to understand what sex trafficking is when living in the state of Virginia to know how to protect against the activity and when to fight against charges from prosecuting lawyers. Human trafficking generally connects to the forced sexual activity with someone that does not consent to the acts and has been taken away from home.
Campus Rape Allegations – What Is the College’s Responsibility to Investigate
When a student reports another person or student as an aggressor in sexual assault, the college usually must at the very least look into the matter to determine if there is any basis for an arrest. There are certain systems to review the matter, but the college or university has less responsibility to investigate in standard situations than the typical company.
Criminal First Offenders and Habitual Offenders: How a Judge May Rule and How a Lawyer Can Help
Other than the standard differences between a first offender and the habitual offender, the law treats these two individual groups inversely as well. The key differences between the two regarding penalties and crimes often depends on the state, but punishments for crimes for each are usually vastly dissimilar based on the number of offenses