The search term "criminal law" is a more or less unequivocal reference to
the topic that it purports to address. However, unless one is a
criminal defense attorney,
criminal prosecutor, or legal scholar, what that topic actually covers is not
particularly clear. To wit, legal scholars typically think of criminal law as a body of law
that can be distinguished from the body of law known as civil law, a distinction that
is usually lost on the average layperson.
Central to the concept of criminal law are the
institutions of law enforcement, in the forms of police and prosecutors, and punishment, in
the forms of jails and prisons. With virtually no exceptions, the plaintiff in a criminal
prosecution is almost always the state or federal government, commonly referred to as
"the people," and the defendant is typically a private individual who stands accused of a
crime. If convicted of a crime, a criminal defendant is typically ordered to pay a fine to the court
and/or serve time in a jail or prison.
The punishment that may be imposed against a defendant who is convicted in a criminal prosecution
is separate and distinct from any remedy that may be granted in favor of a plaintiff in a
civil law suit, such as an award of monetary damages, and the burden of proof in a civil suit is also
quite different. To wit, a criminal defendant enjoys a presumption of
innocence when he or she stands accused of a crime, other things being equal, and the burden is on the prosecutor to
prove the guilt of a criminal defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. In striking
contrast, a plaintiff in a civil suit is usually a private individual or a corporation and
is generally only required to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence. Moreover, civil suits typically involve allegations of negligence or breach of contract rather than allegations of criminal conduct.
Criminal law distinguishes between felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions, with varying
degrees of seriousness along this spectrum. The bright line rule that distinguishes
felonies from misdemeanors is that felonies are generally punishable by a year or more of
imprisonment whereas misdemeanors are generally punishable by less than a year of imprisonment.
Generally speaking, infractions are not considered "real crimes" and are usually resolved by
the payment of a fine. However, there is a great deal of prosecutorial discretion in how
a particular offense is charged, which means (in theory) that a felony can be charged as
a misdemeanor or infraction, and vice versa.
Are you looking for articles providing an overview of "criminal law" and/or criminal procedure?
Law Office of Gerry Morris "AV" rated criminal defense
attorney, board certified as a specialist in criminal defense by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, offers FAQs on criminal defense for state and federal criminal cases and appeals.
Are you looking for "criminal law" sites that offer information and advice to laypersons?
Are you looking for information about "criminal law" in foreign jurisdictions?
International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy An
independent, nonprofit institute formally affiliated with the United Nations. The Centre’s objectives are to contribute to
international criminal justice policy development through analysis, research and consultation, and to provide technical
assistance to implement international policy and standards.
Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China An
English translation of the code adopted by the Second Session of the Fifth National People's
Congress on July 1, 1979 and amended by the Fifth Session of the Eighth National People's
Congress on March 14, 1997.
Spartacus - 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act An
historical perspective on the United Kingdom's Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 which
raised the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen, strengthened existing legislation
against prostitution and proscribed all homosexual relations.
Criminal Law Survival Kit A
reference for working lawyers and students in the field of criminal
law in New South Wales, Australia, about recent cases in the areas of criminal law and evidence.
The Law Commission - Criminal Law An
independent body set up by Parliament in 1965, along with a similar Commission for Scotland,
to keep the law of England and Wales under review and to recommend reform when it is needed.
International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law An
international non-governmental association of judges, legislators, lawyers, academics, and governmental officials who have come together to work actively on the administration of criminal justice both in their own jurisdiction and internationally.
Are you looking for Web sites covering international "criminal law"?
International Criminal Law Network (ICLN) Founded in 2002
by various international experts with the mission of organizing professional and social
interaction between practitioners, academics and policymakers in international criminal law.
International Criminal Law Society (ICLS) A non-profit
public-interest association seeking to advise the public, both academic and non-academic, of
the current state of international criminal law and related areas (e.g. human rights
protection in international relations), and to actively take part in the development of
international criminal law by organizing public events and carrying out academic projects.
Are you looking for Web sites covering particular "criminal law" theories and issues?
Law and The Internet Chapter Eleven of The Internet and
Business: A Lawyer's Guide to the Emerging Legal Issues, published by the Computer Law
Association. Reviews the history of criminal prosecutions related to computers and on-line
services, and describes the current state of the law relating to computer crime.
HIV Criminal Law and Policy Project A
collaborative research project organized by five universities investigating the effects of
laws on the transmission of HIV and AIDS and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and
Lambda Legal - Criminal Law A
chronology of the efforts to strike down state sodomy laws, culminating in the
landmark case of Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, decided by the United States Supreme Court in June 2003, which
eliminated all laws prohibiting sodomy.