Criminal Defense: Overview of the Law and the Process

Criminal defense is a pillar of the American legal justice system. An individual's right to defend his or her self in a court of law when charged with a criminal offence harkens to the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America as well as the writ of habeas corpus. Below we will discuss the various elements and procedural that makes up the basics of a criminal defense law and a criminal defense case.

Stages of a Criminal Case

Every criminal case has multiple stages required by due process. While some stages in criminal cases last longer than others, provisions in both state and federal statutes guarantee when a person is accused of a crime, he or she will have to go through the following stages of a criminal case.

  1. Arrest. The first stage of any criminal case is the arrest. Typically, a police officer will arrest an individual suspected of or seen committing a crime and take him into custody.
  2. Booking & Bail. After a person is taken into custody, he or she will be processed, fingerprinted, and placed in a holding cell until he or she makes bail and is released.
  3. Arraignment. In this stage, the defendant appears in court to be read the criminal charges compiled against him. After hearing the charges, he or she must enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  4. Plea Bargain. During this stage of a criminal case, a defendant may plead a certain way in exchange for a lesser or reduced sentence with the approval of the judge.
  5. Preliminary Hearing. This stage is basically a series of hearings held to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial and what specific evidence will be admitted in trail. Not every case has preliminary hearings and jumps straight to pre-trial motions or the trial itself.
  6. Pre-Trial Motions. This stage resolves issues that the prosecution and defense may have that were not brought up in the preliminary hearings.
  7. Trial. During the trial stage of a criminal case, the plaintiff must provide ample evidence to either a judge or a jury that the defendant committed the crime he is accused of. There are multiple stages of a trial including the choosing of a jury, opening statements by both parties, testimony by witnesses, cross-examination, closing arguments by parties, jury deliberation, and verdict.
  8. Sentencing. When a person is found guilty in the trial phase, he will then be sentenced in proportion to the crime committed.
  9. Appeals. After the trial and sentencing stages are completed, a person may file a petition for appeal. This petition sets into course a review of the trial, sometimes in light of new evidence, and may result in a reduced sentence or a reversal of verdict.
If you need legal assistance for a criminal issue, please consult with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in your area to discuss the details of your case. The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only.

Criminal Law

Criminal Law is the codes, statutes, and rules that defines and prohibits certain conduct prohibited by the regional, state, and federal government. Pretty much, criminal law, also known as penal law, is the basis by which a person's behavior is either deemed in accordance with behavior and actions that are commonly justified and acceptable and behavior that is prohibited, unjustified, and illegal in the eyes of the American people. When a person acts in violation of criminal law, then that person is taken into police custody and charged with the violation.

Criminal violations can range from relatively minor misdemeanor theft violations to severe felonious homicide charges. There are state and federal statutes and laws categorizing the severity of punishment for every type of violation depending on the jurisdiction where the specific crime took place and the type of crime committed. Punishments for crimes reflect the severity of the criminal violation.

There are three basic types of criminal charges: infractions (also known as petty offences), misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are crimes that do not warrant any jail time punishment. Categorized as a subgroup of misdemeanor, infractions are often punishable by fines and community service. Examples of infractions include traffic violations, jaywalking, and disturbing the peace.

Misdemeanors are considered lesser crimes sometimes punishable by relatively short prison sentences not to exceed one year, moderate fines, community service, and probation time. Typical misdemeanor offences include simple assault, theft, prostitution, vandalism, and public intoxication.

Felonies are the most severe type of crime a person can commit. More cruel or harsh in intent and execution, typical felony crimes are punishable by more than one year in prison and hefty fines along with community service hours and probation years. Common felony crimes include grand theft, fraud, rape, and murder. Felonies are also the only charge by which the death penalty may be a consequence.

Criminal Defense

When a person is charged with a crime, that person has the right to defend himself and avail himself with the best legal representation available. Criminal defense lawyers represent ordinary people charged with violating the law. There are a handful of common criminal defenses often used by criminal defense lawyers. The most common criminal defenses are discussed below.

The Insanity Defense involves the perpetrator of a crime as being mentally deficient when he or she committed the crime. The basis of an insanity defense is that the individual was not of sane mind when committing the alleged crime and unable to comprehend the consequences of his/her actions; therefore, he/she should not be held criminally liable for the crimes committed during this time. Defendants who attempt the insanity defense must often undergo a series of mental examinations and evaluations before a judge will allow this type of defense to be practiced.

Another common criminal defense is the Intoxication Defense. When a person violates the law while in an altered state of consciousness, he or she may attempt this defense. The intoxication defense argues that since the individual was intoxicated on a toxic substance, he/she should not be fully responsible for the actions committed while under the spell of the substance. This defense may negate intent in several states and diminish responsibility for the violation.

Self-Defense is one of the most popular types of defense strategies used in murder and assault cases. This criminal defense involves the act of protecting one's self or family from harm. Self-defense is only a valid defense when the consequence of the alleged violation is proportionate to the defensive force or act. Self-defense actions are usually not deemed criminal acts at all.

The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need legal assistance for a criminal issue, please consult with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in your area to discuss the details of your case.

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