Criminal Law was enacted to prevent harm to society and identifies conduct that is criminal or in violation of society’s rules. Additionally, Criminal Law sets out the punishments for undesirable conduct.
- Criminal sanctions include monetary fines, probation, incarceration or death (depending on the jurisdiction). This differs from civil liability, where the remedy is most commonly monetary damages.
- A crime must be clearly defined in order to pass scrutiny under the Federal Constitution, which prohibits the government from taking a person’s life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
- A crime has four elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:
- A voluntary act or omission;
- A culpable intent or “mens rea;”
- Concurrence between the act and intent; and
- Resulting harm.
- Criminal cases can be filed in the local court system (municipal or district) or the state court system. If warranted, criminal cases may also be appealed to the federal court system.
- Criminal Law attorneys are either prosecutors, i.e., working to prove the government’s case beyond a reasonable doubt, or defense attorneys, i.e., defending the rights of the accused.
- Criminal defense attorneys are usually paid using either a flat-rate or per case rate, or a retainer and hourly fee. It is unethical for a criminal defense attorney to be paid on the contingency that the client is acquitted.