Find a Criminal Law Lawyer

Sex offenses (rape, child molestation, date rape, indecent exposure); drug offenses (selling and using); white collar crimes (embezzlement, forgery, credit card fraud, computer hacking); violent offenses (assault, robbery, murder, kidnapping, hit and run)—these acts are not just the stuff of movies and novels. Unfortunately, these are criminal actions that take place regularly in American society. Criminal law is the process in which the state prosecutes an individual for committing such crimes. Typically, crimes are actions that are disapproved of by American society and society and the courts have made these unapproved actions criminal offenses.

Criminal vs. Civil Law

Criminal law differs from civil law in that criminal law seeks punishment (punitive damages) beyond the cost of the actual damages. Civil law can only seek compensatory, or actual monetary, damages.

Criminal offenses are defined differently from state to state; however, the American Law Institute created the Model Penal Code, which serves as a guideline for all states.

Crimes fall into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are the more serious crimes (such as murder, rape, and perjury). Misdemeanors include crimes such as being drunk in public or committing an act of indecent public exposure. In criminal law, in order to find a person guilty, the prosecutor must establish “actus reus” (the guilty act) and “mens reas” (the guilty mind). Criminal law also deals with parole and probation (and violations thereof).

Thanks to the sixth Bill of Rights, persons accused of criminal acts have the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury from the state and district wherein the crime is alleged to have been committed.

Criminal case investigations and prosecutions differ from civil cases. The plaintiff's lawyer needs to present stronger evidence to obtain a criminal conviction than necessary to win a civil suit. It takes a unanimous decision by 12 jurors to convict someone of a federal crime. Criminal cases can be resolved without a trial if both sides agree and the judge concurs.

Attorney Fees

A criminal defense attorney's fees can jump way beyond what an individual might anticipate. The law does not impose a limitation in this regard, so the client's wallet can become the limit. However, the avoidance of jail or very large punitive damage awards is certainly justification for some defendants to pay large attorney fees. Whether rates are high or not, remember to choose a lawyer you can trust to provide the best representation of your interests.

By Kathleen Goolsby           

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