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Criminal Law: Penal Law - Essay Example

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Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of law that punishes criminals for committing offences against the state. There are four theories of criminal justice: punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. It is believed that imposing sanctions for the crime, society can acheive justice and a peacable social order…
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Criminal Law: Penal Law
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Download file to see previous pages The police file a document, in most jurisdictions known as a complaint, with a court in the appropriate jurisdiction. The interests of the state are represented by a prosecuting attorney, while the interests of the defendant are represented by his or her attorney. While the specific process varies according to the local law, in virtually every jurisdiction the process culminates with a trial, followed by appeals to higher courts (Frey, H. & Wellman, 75).
Criminal statutes spell out the exact circumstances which constitute a crime. These circumstances are known as the elements of the offense. Unless all the elements are proven by the proscuting authority, the defendant is not guilty of the offense. There are three kinds of elements: the act itself, the actus reus, guilty act; the requisite mental state, the mens rea, guilty mind; and the attendant circumstances.
Criminal law distinguishes crimes from civil wrongs such as tort or breach of contract. Criminal law has been seen as a system of regulating the behavior of individuals and groups in relation to societal norms at large whereas civil law is aimed primarily at the relationship between private individuals and their rights and obligations under the law. Although many ancient legal systems did not clearly define a distinction between criminal and civil law, in England there was little difference until the codification of criminal law occurred in the late nineteenth century. In most U.S. law schools, the basic course in criminal law is based upon the English common criminal law of 1750 (with some minor American modifications like the clarification of mens rea in the Model Penal Code).
Criminal procedure refers to the legal process for adjudicating claims that someone has violated the criminal law.
Currently, in all countries with a democratic system and the rule of law, criminal procedure puts the burden of proof on the prosecution - that is, it is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty, as opposed to having the defendant prove that he is innocent; any doubt is resolved in favor of the defendant. This provision, known as the presumption of innocence, may in practice operate somewhat differently in different countries (Ethics 563-85).
Similarly, all such jurisdictions allow the defendant the right of a counsel and provide defendants that cannot afford to have their own lawyer some lawyer at the public expense (which is in some countries called a "court-appointed lawyer"). Again, the efficiency of this system depends greatly on the jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, the lawyers provided to indigent defendants are often overworked or incompetent, or may not take much interest in the cases they have to defend.
In a criminal case, the government generally brings charges in one of two ways: either by accusing a suspect directly in a "bill of information" or other similar document, or by bringing evidence before a grand jury to allow that body to determine whether the case should proceed. If there is, then the defendant is indicted. In the federal system, a case must be brought before a grand ju ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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