Criminal Law

.Criminal Law – Overview

Criminal law involves prosecution by the government of a person for an act that has been classified as a crime. Civil cases, on the other hand, involve individuals and organizations seeking to resolve legal disputes. In a criminal case, the state, through a prosecutor, initiates the suit, while in a civil case the victim brings the suit. Persons convicted of a crime may be incarcerated, fined, or both. However, persons found liable in a civil case may only have to give up property or pay money, but are not incarcerated.

A “crime” is any act or omission (of an act) in violation of a public law forbidding or commanding it. Though there are some common law crimes, most crimes in the United States are established by local, state, and federal governments. Criminal laws vary significantly from state to state. There is, however, a Model Penal Code (MPC) which serves as a good starting place to gain an understanding of the basic structure of criminal liability.

Crimes include both felonies (more serious offenses — like murder or rape) and misdemeanors (less serious offenses — like petty theft or jaywalking). Felonies are usually crimes punishable by imprisonment of a year or more, while misdemeanors are crimes punishable by less than a year. However, no act is a crime if it has not been previously established as such either by statute or common law. Recently, the list of Federal crimes, dealing with activities extending beyond state boundaries or having special impact on federal operations, has grown. See Title 18.

For most people, familiarity with criminal law comes in fragments — from movies, television, and books. But when we become personally involved in the criminal law system, real-life issues come into focus and the need for information and assistance can arise quickly. This overview discusses the basics of criminal law: criminal statutes, criminal law players and procedure, and the potential outcome of a criminal case. Links to additional introductory information on criminal law are also provided.

Criminal law addresses the government’s prosecution of individuals who have committed an act classified as a crime. Federal, state, and local governments codify crimes and prosecute criminals. A prosecuting attorney represents the people of a particular jurisdiction, and acts on behalf of the government by bringing a case against an accused.

Philosophical ‘theories of criminal law’ may be analytical or normative (§ 1). Once we have identified the salient features that distinguish criminal law from other kinds of law (§2), we ask whether and why we should maintain such an institution (§3). Instrumentalist answers to this question portray criminal law as an efficient technique that helps us achieve worthwhile ends; non-instrumentalist answers portray it as an intrinsically appropriate response to certain kinds of wrongful conduct (§4). By considering the question of how the criminal law should address the citizens (§5), we can discern the truth in the non-instrumentalist perspective. The next question concerns the proper scope of the criminal law: what kinds of conduct should be criminalised? Several candidate principles of criminalisation are critically discussed (§6), including the Harm Principle, and the claim that the criminal law should be concerned with ‘public’, rather than merely ‘private’, wrongs.

Criminal Law – United States

Areas of crime that fall under the criminal law statutes: Appellate Law; White Collar Crime; Bribery; Counterfeiting / Forgery; Embezzlement; Fraud; Healthcare Fraud; Government Fraud; Murder / Homicide; Tax Evasion; Violent Crime; Theft / Property Crime; Drug Crime; Juvenile Crime; Child Abuse Crime;

The Criminal Justice Section has primary responsibility for the American Bar Association’s work on solutions to issues involving crime, criminal law, and the administration of criminal and juvenile justice. The Section plays an active leadership role in bringing the views of the ABA to the attention of federal and state courts, Congress, and other federal and state judicial, legislative, and executive policy-making bodies. The Section also serves as a resource to its members on issues in the forefront of change in the criminal justice arena.

Criminal Justice Standards Committee

The Standards Committee is responsible for keeping the prestigious multi-volume Standards for Criminal Justice up-to-date and relevant to criminal justice policymakers and practitioners. Appointed by the ABA President from recommendations of the Section Chair, its nine members commission task forces to draft new Standards on emerging issues or to propose revisions to existing Standards. The Committee reviews, refines, and presents the task forces’ proposed “black letter” Standards to the Criminal Justice Section Council for approval prior to their submission to the ABA House of Delegates. Once the Standards are approved as ABA policy, the Committee approves commentary to accompany them in published volumes.

U.S. House of Representatives

United States Code provided by Cornell Law School

Many categories of FAQ about Criminal Law

Criminal law is much better known to laymen than civil law, as a result of journalists’ reports of famous criminal trials. In talking with people about law, I find that they often misapply principles from criminal law to situations in civil (e.g., tort) law, which results in their misunderstanding. They are surprised when they learn the actual legal principles that apply to a problem. The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast criminal and civil law.

NCJRS is a federally funded resource offering justice and substance abuse information to support research, policy, and program development.

A comprehensive on-line digest of American criminal law, the Penal Law Web is part of a comprehensive program to reform American penal law teaching, scholarship, and practice. Additional information on this program is available here. Click here for an interactive illustration of the Penal Law Web’s role in criminal law teaching. For an on-line digest of New York criminal law, go to New York Criminal Law: A Web.

Criminal Code by State

Criminal Law – International

A global network of over 2,500 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) advocating for a fair, effective and independent International Criminal Court (ICC).

ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law

The purpose of this guide is to provide researchers with a selective quick guide to basic and significant materials, both print and electronic, in the topic area of international criminal law and its processes. As a hyperlinked, contextual guide, it is not intended as a substitute for the compilation of any updated, comprehensive bibliography by using electronic indexes and catalogues and their print equivalents (for older and historic materials).

An international criminal court has been called the missing link in the international legal system. The International Court of Justice at The Hague handles only cases between States, not individuals. Without an international criminal court for dealing with individual responsibility as an enforcement mechanism, acts of genocide and egregious violations of human rights often go unpunished. In the last 50 years, there have been many instances of crimes against humanity and war crimes for which no individuals have been held accountable. In Cambodia in the 1970s, an estimated 2 million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge. In armed conflicts in Mozambique, Liberia, El Salvador and other countries, there has been tremendous loss of civilian life, including horrifying numbers of unarmed women and children. Massacres of civilians continue in Algeria and the Great Lakes region of Africa.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern; genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime. Established in 1997 through a merger between the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Centre for International Crime Prevention, UNODC operates in all regions of the world through an extensive network of field offices.

The Master’s programme is designed for those who seek to develop a unique insight in International Criminal Law, its implementation and the International Organisations’ activities in the area. In particular, it is aimed at: University Graduates in Law, Political Science, International Relations, or equivalent qualifications; Young professionals in government institutions, local authorities, international organisations, NGOs; Lawyers seeking a specialisation in the field of international criminal justice.

Criminal Law – International Guides

Most legal scholars agree that a recognizable body of international criminal law does exist. However, the precise parameters of this body of law are often unclear, perhaps due to the rapid and complex developments of our global society. In its widest context, the source of international criminal law might be derived from the general principles of international law recognized by civilized nations; and therefore, found in the customary law accepted by states, the general criminal law recognized by nations, and the treaties which govern particular conduct.

nternational criminal law is an autonomous branch of law which deals with international crimes and the courts and tribunals set up to adjudicate cases in which persons have incurred international criminal responsibility. It represents a significant departure from ‘classical’ international law which was mainly considered law created by states for the benefit of states, but tended to ignore the individual as a subject of the law.

provides on-line access to criminal law materials from the United States and throughout the world, including, among other things, criminal codes, criminal procedure codes, and enforcement codes.

The purpose of this guide is to provide researchers with a selective quick guide to basic and significant materials, both print and electronic, in the topic area of international criminal law and its processes. As a hyperlinked, contextual guide, it is not intended as a substitute for the compilation of any updated, comprehensive bibliography by using electronic indexes and catalogues and their print equivalents (for older and historic materials).

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