What is Criminal Law?
Criminal law is the area of law that deals with those who commit crimes. Crimes are generally defined as deviant behavior that violates social norms. What is considered a social norm and what is considered deviant behavior is determined both at the federal level and the state level, as are the punishments for various crimes.
Punishments for crimes vary based on the severity of the crime that was committed and where the crime was committed. In the United States, crimes are classified in two main categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are serious crimes that are generally punishable by a year or more in prison (e.g., armed robbery, murder). Misdemeanors are less serious crimes that are generally punishable by less than a year in prison (e.g., petty theft, vandalism).
People accused of crimes are granted certain rights under the US Constitution that protect them from being treated unfairly. Some of these rights include:
- The right to an attorney
- The right to not incriminate oneself
- The right to a speedy and public trial
- The right to an appeal
Consequences for those convicted of a crime can change a person’s life forever affecting career choices, educational opportunities and personal liberties. For this reason, it is a good idea to have a skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side if you have been accused of committing a crime. A criminal defense attorney can not only help you understand your rights, but make sure those rights are protected.
In addition to protecting your rights, a skilled attorney should also be able to help you develop a strong defense for the charges you face. Contacting an attorney as soon as you are arrested or suspect you may be arrested is imperative. Having a criminal defense lawyer by your side may help you avoid mistakes that could negatively impact your case. Additionally, having an attorney on-hand early will allow sufficient time to strategize your defense and thoroughly investigate the charges you may face.