This paper will present an assessment of Criminal Law. The paper will discuss sources and purposes of criminal law. Some of the topics that will be discussed will be, explain jurisdiction to create and enforce criminal law, the adversarial system and what standards of proof are needed in criminal cases. We will also discuss the concepts of criminal liability versus accomplice liability as well as, inchoate offenses and how they fit into additional criminal offenses.
Criminal law can be found to go as far back as to the code of Hammurabi. This code was named after King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC). The laws here pertained to sexual relationships, interpersonal violence and issues of ownership (Schmalleger, Hall, Dolatowski, Chapter 1). However, the Hammurabi laws had little influence on the western laws of today’s society. Our laws were mostly influenced by the Old English common law. The concept of stare decisis was formed. Stare decisis means, let the decision stand. This concept helps the courts in the decision-making process and promotes fairness in the judicial system.
The adversarial system is seen in our system of law. This system allows each person to argue their innocence before a jury. The system has a two-sided structure and plays the prosecution against the defense. Justice is determined when the best adversary convinces a jury or judge that his or her perspective is the right one. This may leave us to be more likely to be convicted and less innocent of a crime. Disadvantages to this system are, trials are expensive to operate and time taken to hear cases, jurors can be influenced by media coverage, jurors can be easily persuaded by good council, and jurors sometimes have difficulty when analyzing complex evidence.
Jurisdiction is a legal authority over a certain geographical area. There are many different types of jurisdiction. There is local, county, state, and federal. In creating laws, the federal court system expands across the entire United States. The jurisdiction of a state is unto itself and may pass its own laws as well as county and local governments. This affects criminal law in different ways. For example if a person receives a speeding ticket, the case is heard at a local level unless there were other circumstances involved. Cases like murder, bank robberies, rape, and burglaries are all tried within the state. However, jurisdiction can change based on the severity of the crime, whether the person has fled the state and committed other crimes in another state and how well the prosecution can prove its case. Commonly jurisdiction is set by the place where the crime has been committed.
Next we have criminal and accomplice liability. Criminal liability is being culpable for acts that harm society and are prosecuted by the government. To be culpable of the crime a person must mean to do the crime and the crime must be completed. An example of this would be, a person going to burglarize a home and killing the person inside. A person can be held criminally liable for murder. Even though it was not the intention to kill the homeowner, but burglarizing the home was, thus leading to criminal liability for murder. Accomplice liability or complicity is also know as aiding and abetting.
An accomplice is a person who helps or merely encourages the commission of a crime. A person can be held as an accomplice by, acting as a look out, driving a getaway car, or supplying weapons while a crime is being committed. An example of an accomplice would be if two people went into a store to commit a robbery. One person shoots and kills the owner of the store. The both can be charged for the crime of murder. Even though the other person did not shoot the owner, he or she helped in the commission of a crime.
Inchoate crimes are incomplete crimes. These crimes must be connected to a substantive crime to be able to receive a conviction. Some examples of an inchoate crime are criminal solicitation, attempt to commit a crime and criminal conspiracy. This type of offenses requires that a person has the intent to commit the underlying crime. Examples of inchoate crimes are, possession of a controlled substance with the intent to manufacture that substance, firing an unloaded weapon with the intent to kill someone, or hiring a person to murder another person without committing the crime him or herself.
In conclusion there are many differences in the criminal law system. The adversarial system may not be the best way to prove one’s innocence of a crime, yet it is a system that allows one to be free while a person is in the process of doing so. However, we can see why the differences exist and how they can be applied.
References Frank Schmalleger, Daniel E. Hall, John J. Dolatowski, Criminal Law Today Fourth Edition Chapter1. www.pattersonlaw.com www.apsu.edua