6 Things You Need To Know About Criminal Law

Criminal law is one of the most complex areas of law a person can face. It includes the study of criminal behaviour and the consequences of that behaviour. There are many different types of crimes, each with its own set of rules and punishments. A crime is any act or omission that violates a law and is punishable by a government. A person who commits a crime is called a defendant. The government prosecutes defendants for their crimes. Thus, criminal law governs the relationship between the state and an individual and can cover everything from minor offences to serious crimes. Here are six things you need to know about criminal law in order to protect yourself.

1. The Difference Between Misdemeanours And Felonies

Misdemeanours are less serious crimes than felonies. They are usually punished with a fine or imprisonment for less than one year. Examples of misdemeanours include petty theft, simple assault, and DUI. Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious crimes that are punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year. Examples of felonies include murder, rape, and robbery. The type of case will guide criminal lawyers fighting your case because the procedures and possible punishments differ between misdemeanours and felonies. Additionally, if you are convicted of a felony, you will lose certain rights, such as the right to vote or own a firearm.

2. The Three Types Of Crimes

The previously mentioned are two of the three types of crimes in the United States: infractions, misdemeanours, and felonies. Infractions are the least serious type of crime and are usually punished with a fine. Misdemeanours are more serious than infractions but less serious than felonies. They are typically punished with imprisonment for less than one year or probation. Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year.

  • Infractions: These are the least serious type of offence. An infraction is generally defined as a violation of a law or ordinance that results in a fine but no jail time. Examples of infractions include minor traffic offences, littering, and disorderly conduct.
  • Misdemeanours: Misdemeanours are more serious than infractions but less serious than felonies. They are typically punishable by imprisonment for less than one year or probation. Examples of misdemeanours include petty theft, simple assault, and DUI.
  • Felonies: Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year. Examples of felonies include murder, rape, and robbery.

3. The Three Elements Of A Crime

For someone to be convicted of a crime, the prosecutor must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt: that the person committed an act (actus reus), that the person had the required mental state (mens rea), and that the act was committed with the intention of committing a crime (mens rea).

  • The Actus Reus: The actus reus is the physical element of a crime. It is an act that is prohibited by law. For example, if the actus reus of murder is the killing of another human being, then any killing of a human being would satisfy this element.
  • The Mens Rea: The mens rea is the mental element of a crime. It is the intent to do something that is prohibited by law. For example, if the mens rea of murder is the intent to kill another human being, then any killing of a human being with the intent to kill would satisfy this element.
  • The Intent to Commit a Crime: The intent to commit a crime is the third element of a crime. It is the intention to do any act that is prohibited by law. For example, if the intent to commit a crime is the intention to steal a car, then any theft of a car would satisfy this element.

4. The Four Types Of Defences

There are four types of defences that can be used in a criminal case: self-defence, necessity, duress, and intoxication.

  • Self-defence: Self-defence is a defence to a criminal charge that can be used if the defendant reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of bodily harm and uses force to defend him or herself.
  • Necessity: Necessity is a defence to a criminal charge that can be used if the defendant reasonably believes that his or her actions are necessary to prevent greater harm.
  • Duress: Duress is a defence to a criminal charge that can be used if the defendant reasonably believes that he or she will be harmed if he or she does not commit the act in question.
  • Intoxication: Intoxication is a defence to a criminal charge that can be used if the defendant was so intoxicated at the time of the crime that he or she could not form the required intent to commit the crime.

5. The Burden Of Proof

In a criminal case, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the jury must be convinced that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find him or her guilty. For example, if the prosecutor can only prove that the defendant is 50% guilty, then the jury must acquit. Additionally, if the prosecutor can only prove that the defendant is 51% guilty, then the jury may convict.

6. The Presumption Of Innocence

In a criminal case, the presumption of innocence means that the defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. This means that the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, if the prosecutor can only prove that the defendant is 50% guilty, then the jury must acquit. Additionally, the presumption of innocence allows the defendant to remain silent and not testify at trial. This is because anything the defendant says can be used against him or her.

These are the six things you need to know about criminal law. If you have been charged with a crime, it is important to understand these elements so that you can build a strong defence. Speak to a qualified criminal defence attorney to learn more about your rights and options. So, before you plead guilty, make sure you understand the criminal process and how to defend yourself.

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