Criminal law is used to define what constitutes a criminal act and, therefore, concerns those either accused or convicted of committing a crime. It is a complex system of laws and procedures that also sets appropriate punishments for these acts and outlines the rules that guide the criminal process from initial investigation to sentencing.
Criminal offenses vary in nature and severity and are often different across states and counties. That means individual states can set the standards on what the government can or cannot do with regard to criminal laws and procedures. For example, if you’re represented by a DUI and criminal defense firm, your attorneys will know which evidence they can use in court for the DUI charge or any other criminal offense depending on the rules set by the state.
Nonetheless, there are several classifications and specific punishments that pertain to criminal cases and individuals who violate federal, state, and local laws. This article explains the separate crimes and the consequences that might arise from prosecution.
Classification Of Criminal Cases
Crimes can be classified by the severity of the act or the type of crime. Generally, misdemeanors are less serious crimes that can result in up to a year in prison. Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious and can be punished with longer jail time. In such cases, it’s of utmost importance to reach out to top criminal defense lawyers in New York or other states that handle and navigate the case with the necessary expertise. When it comes to the type of crime, there are four primary categories:
Crimes Against A Person
Acts that result in physical or mental harm to individuals are classified as crimes against a person. Depending on the consequences to the other person’s life, they can be divided into homicide and other violent crimes. If the physical harm is so severe that it results in death, the defendant may be charged with different kinds of homicide, including first-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.
Violent crimes, although not fatal, can still be severe. Examples of violent crimes include assault and battery, domestic abuse, rape and statutory rape, child abuse, and kidnapping. Both homicide and violent crimes are felonies, and they carry the steepest penalties in prosecution.
Crimes Against Property
These crimes typically involve the intrusion of another party’s property. Although they don’t necessarily cause physical or mental harm to individuals, they can result in a range of negative consequences to the owners. Many property crimes are theft crimes like robbery, larceny, or shoplifting.
Inchoate crimes are ones that have been initiated but not completed or ones that assist other crimes. However, they require more than just intent; the individual must initiate or take a step towards the completion of the act to be found guilty. Examples of inchoate crimes include aiding and abetting, conspiracy, and attempt. In some cases, the punishment reflects the severity of the final crime and is less severe in others.
Statutory crimes are crimes that violate state or federal statutes. They are generally divided into alcohol-related offenses, drug offenses, financial or white-collar offenses, and traffic offenses. Statutory crimes can also overlap with other types of crimes. For example, if a DUI results in fatalities, the defendant can be charged with homicide in addition to the alcohol-related crime.
Generally, the bigger the public or social harm inflicted, the harsher the potential punishment is for the crime. That means that, unlike civil lawsuits that result in payment for material damages or changes to a party’s legal status, criminal charges can lead to imprisonment and fines. The amount of jail time is determined by the judge and, in the same manner, depends on the severity and nature of the crime.
If the suspect is found guilty by the jury or the judge, or if they are awaiting trial, they are sent to a correctional facility. These include state prisons, country and city jails, halfway houses, and pre-release centers. If they are sent to state prison, that means they have been sentenced to more than one year of incarceration, while county and city jails are designated for those still awaiting trial or with a sentence of less than one year. Halfway houses and pre-release centers are used after the offender has served most of their time and is close to their release.
If the offender is under the age of 18, they are typically handled by the juvenile justice system. However, each state has its own rules that dictate whether a person can be tried as a minor or an adult for a specific crime. For example, in some states, a 15-year-old who has committed murder will still be placed in the general court system.
The criminal justice system follows a complex and state-specific set of rules that determine how the government investigates and prosecutes alleged offenders. The main types of crimes include crimes against a person, crimes against property, inchoate crimes, and statutory crimes. Depending on their severity, they can be viewed as felonies or misdemeanors.
The greater the harm inflicted by these crimes, the greater the punishment decided by the court. They often result in imprisonment, ranging from less than a year to a life sentence, for which offenders are sent to correctional facilities, and in the case of minors, juvenile detention.