Criminal law is basically the body of law which applies to criminal activity. It proscribes criminal conduct defined as dangerous, menacing, dangerous, or otherwise menacing to the public peace, property, health, or moral welfare of the people generally involved in the commission of the offense. The Constitution and statutory law also define criminal acts. Criminal defense lawyers deal exclusively with issues involving criminal offenses. The most common types of criminal activities are burglary, arson, embezzlement, forgery, assault, battery, vehicle crimes, fraud, and theft.
Criminal law covers a wide range of criminal offenses and includes a variety of State and Federal offenses. A person charged with any criminal offense is entitled to representation under the guarantee of the right to effective counsel. This guarantee to counsel has been implemented to ensure that the poor defendants are provided with the right kind of legal representation. Under the law, no person shall be deprived of representation legally entitled according to the constitution and the statutes in the course of a criminal proceeding unless there are extenuating circumstances. Extenuating circumstances include circumstances that are beyond the control of the accused, or even a situation where the accused has been guilty of the underlying crime for a long time.
Each criminal law violation has distinct penalties. Some crimes impose prison terms as well as financial penalties. Drug trafficking is punished with sentences ranging from heavy fines to years in jail. The severity of punishments imposed on different crimes is based on their characteristics such as the degree of public danger, the criminal intent, the criminal behavior, the criminal background of the defendant, and other circumstances surrounding the case.
The severity of punishments also depends on the type of criminal act charged. Misdemeanors and dismissals for first-time offenders are considerably light in comparison with felonies. Drug possession is punished with fines only, while minor possession of marijuana or cocaine are treated with probation only or a small fine. The penalties for DUI violations are usually very heavy.
The elements of criminal law, which includes the crimes themselves, punishment processes, and administrative tribunals, form the essential components of the penal code. A criminal procedure is an arrest for an alleged offense, the processing of a criminal law claim, the admission of a plea bargain, and the outcome of the case. An administrative procedure occurs before a court and is characterized by the initiation of actions by the prosecutor. The procedures and outcomes of criminal code cases differ from state to state. There are many differences in the penal codes, including the elements of crimes, penalties for those same crimes, and the processes governing the issuance of warrants.
An accused can choose between criminal law and civil law when facing a criminal case. Criminal proceedings commence with a complaint naming the accused, with a date for a pre-trial hearing called an arraignment. If the accused accepts the complaint and agrees to appear in court, a date for a formal trial called a trial will be scheduled. The defendant and the government are then represented by their attorney. If the defendant rejects the charges, there is then a defense attorney who represents the defendant.