Criminal law is the body of civil law that focuses on criminal behavior. It also prescribes behavior construed as dangerous, menacing, harmful, or else endangering to one’s property, person, or life in general. Criminal defense is the profession that defends a person who has been charged with crimes, including but not limited to burglary, arson, embezzlement, solicitation, rape, murder, hit and run, carjacking, theft, and so on. The defender works on the principal that the state has a responsibility to protect the public from acts of unlawful conduct by private citizens.
Criminal defense attorneys defend clients who have been accused of crimes against society, government agencies, public officials, other private citizens, or even against other members of their family or group. In criminal law, there are three types of crimes. These include felonies, misdemeanors, and corpus corporalis. A crime may be either a misdemeanor or a felony, which implies that the punishment inflicted on an accused person is greater than what would be inflicted on another person who commits the same act.
Among the most common types of crimes are murder, manslaughter, burglary, assault, drunk driving, drug offenses, white-collar crimes, and corruption. A common feature in most criminal law cases is that the punishment inflicted is directly proportioned to the gravity of the crime. Thus, even the least serious crime, such as possessing a small amount of drugs for personal use, is punished with the maximum penalty under federal criminal law. Similarly, a drunk driver who kills someone is sentenced to a very large jail term, while an armed robber who kills five people has to serve life imprisonment.
Because of the extremely serious nature of criminal law, only a defense attorney can help a client effectively represent him or herself in a criminal case. One major difference between criminal and civil law is that civil law deals with disputes between private parties. Civil law does not deal with the government. Examples of civil disputes include disagreements over property ownership, divorce, child custody, child abuse, and damages for personal injury. Unlike criminal law, arguments regarding these issues are settled outside the court system through the process of arbitration.
Civil law differs from criminal law in some ways. For example, juries are not required to award compensation to victims of crimes. This is because the Constitution vests the right to a trial “in the hands of the jury.” In some states, the government does not have the authority to request a jury trial. The issue of a jury in civil law is quite controversial in the United States.
Federal criminal sentencing guidelines follow a system of sentencing that balances the rights of the accused and the rights of the prosecution. Each side has the right to present evidence and argue the points of contention in a trial. The defendant also has the right to counsel, but is under no obligation to do so. In a trial, the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor, who has the responsibility of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury will be asked to determine if the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.