Tuesday, 06 April 2010 05:02

Basics of Criminal Law, or Penal Law

Written by
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Criminal Law, or Penal Law, is the body of rules that govern punishments for a number of legal offenses, and is usually enforced by the government. Each state has its own set of procedures to deal with the offense, but a common characteristic is that they all deal with punishing a person's failure to comply to set rules or laws. Depending on the offense committed, these punishments can range from execution, to parole or probation, to a simple fine.

The basic process of bringing someone to justice under criminal law starts with an accusation of an alleged crime, usually the result of a complaint. An indictment, or information, may be filed in court which results in formal charges being assigned by a grand jury.

If a crime is committed against the United States, it is brought before a Federal Grand Jury as required by the Fifth Amendment. Although the basic procedure will be similar, specifics can differ from state to state, except for those crimes that require a Federal Grand Jury.

Criminal law is too vast a topic to be able to effectively catalog every crime that could be committed. Three categories that most crimes fall into are crimes against people, against property, and against justice.


Crimes against People - These are acts that directly harm a person physically. Some common crimes under this category include murder, assault, battery, rape, sexual abuse, and kidnapping.

Crimes against Property - Property crimes include those that damage someone's property or possessions, including arson, theft, burglary, and trespassing.

Crimes against Justice - This category includes acts such as bribery, perjury, or misconduct in political office.

There are numerous crimes that can be committed that do not fall into these categories however, and crimes within each category can vary in severity. A severe arson case, for example, may deserve a harsher punishment than a trespassing offense. In addition, there are other elements of crimes that must be examined, such as causation, recklessness, and intention, to see if the alleged criminal knowingly committed the crime.

During a trial, a criminal lawyer has the task of defending his or her client. Some of the most common defense routes a lawyer will use include insanity, intoxication, duress, mistake, automatism, or self defense. Depending on the circumstances of the case, one or more of these categories could be used in a case to help defend an alleged criminal. The government is the body which is trying to prove the crime in a criminal case, so it is charged with proving the absence of these defenses if they are claimed. If unable to do so, the punishment received for the crime maybe partially or totally avoided.

It is easy to see where one can get lost and put under a lot of pressure if accused of committing a crime. All of these factors are taken into account by a criminal lawyer on a case in order to build a solid defense. These lawyers are trained in understanding and interpreting the statutes of criminal law specific to a certain area, and are therefore required to be registered to practice law in a particular state. Since the code can be unique in every state and difficult to interpret, it is important to not try to take the law into one's own hands. A criminal lawyer can be a valuable resource that should be used in the case of an alleged crime.

About the Author:

Michael J. Colich is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis Minnesota at the law office of Colich and Associates, which specializes in criminal defense law.

Read 542 times
Login to post comments