Infractions- (like traffic tickets), which are minor violations and, usually, the punishment is having to pay a fine. Felonies- are serious crimes like armed robbery, arson, carjacking, rape, assault with intent to do great bodily harm, drug dealing, and murder. This is only a partial list but the thing to remember about felonies is that you will have over one year in prison if convicted. Misdemeanors- are lesser offenses like assault, reckless driving, drug possession (small quantity), and shoplifting. Misdemeanors usually result in jail time up to a year if convicted.
*Jail is usually run by the county and houses people serving misdemeanor sentences and waiting to have their felony or misdemeanor trial in that county. Prisons are usually run by the state and house people who have committed felonies. * BURDEN OF PROOF- The burden of proof in criminal cases is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means the prosecutor must prove all of the elements of the crime. The jury will be told to find the defendant not guilty of the crime charged if the jurors think that the prosecutor has not proven all of the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
-Crimes are usually broken up into two pieces, did the defendant commit the criminal act (the actus reus) and did the defendant have the required mental state (the mens rea) at the time the defendant committed the crime. DEFENSES- There are some defenses that a person charged with a crime can bring up to try to negate either the actus reus, mens rea, or both. Types of defenses are: duress, infancy, insanity, intoxication, necessity and self-defense.
THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN CRIMINAL CASE- Principal (defendant) – the person who commits the crime Accomplice- a person who helps the principal commit the crime Accessory before the fact- the person who gives the principal some information that enables the principal to commit the crime Accessory after the fact- someone who knows the principal committed a crime but helps the principal get away or conceal the fact that they have committed a crime. Prosecutor- generic term for the government’s attorney in a criminal case, including District Attorney, States Attorney, United States Attorney, Attorney General, Solicitor General, or special prosecutor.
A special prosecutor may be assigned to investigate as well as prosecute if necessary when a government official is involved directly or indirectly in the possible criminal activity. *Most jurisdictions now just use principal and accomplice* GETTING READY TO COMMIT THE CRIME- Attempt- If a person attempts to commit a crime, they can be charged with the attempt. Most states have passed laws that make it a crime to attempt to commit a crime. Typically to be found guilty of attempt you must have the mental intent (mens rea) for the crime and take some substantial step toward committing the crime.
It is possible to renounce (this means deciding not to commit the crime) the attempt to commit the crime, but the person must voluntarily change their mind. Conspiracy-A conspiracy is when two or more people plan to commit some criminal act together. All that is needed to satisfy the mental intent necessary for a conspiracy is that they intended to engage in the criminal act. Solicitation-Solicitation is when someone requests or encourages another person to commit a crime. TYPES OF CRIMES: Arson-Arson is when an individual sets fire to a piece of property like a building or house, or even a piece of personal property like an expensive jacket.
The key with arson is that it must be done intentionally. Assault-You have probably heard the term assault and battery. These two terms are directly connected and you need to understand battery to understand assault. A battery is when someone touches or injures you and you did not want, or ask to be touched or injured. Assault occurs when someone tries to batter you and fails OR they do something that makes you fear that they are going to batter you. Burglary (Home Invasion) and Breaking & Entering- Burglary occurs when an individual goes into someone else’s building or home with the intent to commit a crime in the home or business.
A key factor in burglary is that the person entered without the consent of the owner. To satisfy the entry requirement, all that is needed is for any part of the person’s body to enter the home or dwelling. Controlled Substance Offenses-A controlled substance is a substance that is regulated by law. Controlled substance statutes usually include illegal drugs and narcotics like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, L. S. D. , G. H. B. , prescription drugs, and many other substances. Controlled substance laws usually prohibit the possession and consumption/use of the illegal substance.
Most of the controlled substance laws determine whether the offense is a misdemeanor or felony based on the amount the person possessed. Crimes against Children- -Abandonment: This crime occurs when a parent leaves a child with no intention to return for the child. In most jurisdictions the parent must leave the child in a dangerous place. -Child Sexually Abusive Material: These statutes protect children from individuals that would expose the child to or use the child in the creation of sexual materials. Most jurisdictions have very detailed statutes regarding this area.
This area has been changing a great deal because of digital editing software and the internet. -Discipline: Most jurisdictions allow parents to discipline their children as long as the discipline is reasonable. However, if the discipline is extreme and unreasonable the parent will face prosecution for child abuse. -Criminal Sexual Conduct and Rape: Most jurisdictions have established detailed statutes that deal with rape and other criminal sexual conduct. The traditional definition of rape is unlawful sexual intercourse without the individual’s consent.
Drunk Driving- people getting in their cars after they have been drinking alcoholic beverages. The states have all decided to use different terms for the offenses related to drunk driving. Some are DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while impaired), OUI (operating under the influence), and OWI (operating while impaired). In most jurisdictions these offenses are initially a misdemeanor if it is a first time offense. If there are additional offenses by the same person most jurisdictions will charge the person with a felony.
Indecency- Most jurisdictions have established laws that prohibit people from exposing their naked body to other people in public. In some jurisdictions it isn’t even necessary that somebody observe the person. All that is necessary is that it is reasonable to believe someone might have been able to observe them based on the location they chose to expose themselves. Larceny- This crime occurs when taking someone else’s property or belongings with the intent to steal it. In most jurisdictions there are monetary levels that are used to differentiate larceny sentences. Murder and Manslaughter-
-Murder: Murder is usually divided into various types or degrees of murder (first degree murder and second degree murder). -Manslaughter: is a crime that was created because there are facts that indicate the defendant was somehow justified in his actions or didn’t have the intent to kill at the time of the murder. Traditionally there have been two kinds of manslaughter; voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Receiving Stolen Property- This crime occurs when a person has knowledge that money, goods, or property is stolen and then buys, takes, possesses, conceals, or helps someone conceal the stolen money, goods, or property.
Most jurisdictions determine whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value of the stolen property. Robbery- Robbery is larceny (stealing) from the actual person. In addition, in robbery the robber uses force or the threat of force to take the property from the person. Stalking- Stalking occurs when someone repeatedly harasses another person in a way that would make a reasonable person feel terrorized, frightened, or threatened. It is also necessary that the individual targeted did feel terrorized, frightened, or threatened. THE STEPS IN THE CRIMINAL PROCESS:
Arrest- Arrest occurs when a police officer takes you into custody with the intent to charge you with a crime. A police officer may arrest an individual when the officer has probable cause (pieces of evidence) that indicate the person committed a crime, or an arrest warrant. In some jurisdictions there are different standards depending on whether the crime was a misdemeanor or a felony. In some states the misdemeanor must be committed in the officers’ presence in order to arrest someone for a misdemeanor. The important thing to remember is custody. Booking- Booking normally occurs at the police station.
During booking the police will most likely conduct a more thorough search of the person arrested. This is also the point in the process where the police will finger print, take photographs, and create the record of the arrest which will include the person’s name, crime arrested for, and any other evidence that was collected. First Court Appearance- The first appearance of the person arrested might be called the initial arraignment, first appearance, arraignment on the complaint, or preliminary appearance. Preliminary Hearing- The preliminary hearing or examination is the next step in the felony process.
At this step the judge or magistrate will look at the evidence and determine if there is probable cause to continue with the case against the charged person. Arraignment on the Information or Indictment- After the indictment or information is issued, it will be filed with the court that has jurisdiction over felonies. At this arraignment the defendant will be informed of the charges against him and they will be asked to enter a plea. The defendant might plead Not Guilty, Guilty, or Nolo Contendere (No Contest). Pretrial Motions- A motion is a request that the court take some type of action.
The defendant might request that evidence be suppressed because it was seized illegally. The defendant might request that the prosecution turn over evidence so the defense can review it prior to trial. Trial- At the trial both sides will present their cases to the judge or jury. Some important things to remember about criminal trials are that the prosecution has the burden of proving all the elements of the crimes charged beyond a reasonable doubt and a defendant does not need to testify. (LegalHyena) Example of Criminal Law case: Gideon v. Wainwright 372 US 335 (1963).