Criminal Defense – An Overview

Our criminal-justice system can be overwhelming and frightening. The United States’ incarceration rate is much higher than that of other industrialized countries. Prison sentences are getting longer and more frequent. If you face the possibility of being accused of a crime, contact an experienced criminal-defense lawyer as early in the process as possible, preferably even before questioning or investigation.

A skilled attorney can fight for your legal and constitutional rights. Remember that if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the government may have to provide one for you.Because the negative behavior regulated by the criminal laws varies from relatively minor to devastatingly violent, crimes are classified into levels or degrees (Classifications of Crimes).

Criminal Liability

Historically in our criminal-justice system, two things must have been present for criminal liability to attach to an action. First, a person must have the intent to take the criminal action. Traditionally this culpable state of mind was calledmens rea, Latin for guilty mind.

The second requirement for criminal liability is actus reus, Latin for guilty act. The prohibited physical event must take place in combination with the requisite criminal intention for the actual commission of a crime to take place.

In other words, it is not a crime to only think about committing a crime nor is it generally a crime to cause a criminal deed without the intention to do so.

Due Process

As the concept of criminal liability suggests, our criminal-justice system is complex, both conceptually and procedurally. To ensure the fairness of the proceedings, each court system has its own rules of criminal procedure that govern the actions of all players – police, defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges and juries.

The US Constitution requires that criminal defendants be accorded due process of law in all proceedings against them. Broadly this means that throughout the criminal process the rules of criminal procedure must be observed with all constitutional protections in place. Due process requires such things as reasonable notice of proceedings and fair hearings when facing substantial negative consequences, such as incarceration.

Plea Bargaining

Sometimes a criminal defendant and the prosecution can negotiate an agreement that resolves the criminal matter. Usually, the prosecutor agrees to reduce a charge, drop some of multiple charges or recommend a more lenient sentence in exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea, often to a lesser offense or to fewer than all offenses charged. A seasoned criminal-defense attorney can be a real advantage to a criminal defendant throughout the plea-bargaining process.

Sentencing

Many negative outcomes flow from a criminal conviction. First, the court will impose a sentence, which commonly may include incarceration, fines, court costs, restitution, probation or, in some jurisdictions, death(The Death Penalty). Second, a criminal conviction may result in more indirect effects like stigma or estrangement from family, friends or professional colleagues. A person with a criminal record may have trouble with employment (employment law) , insurance, credit or housing. He or she may lose or become ineligible for professional licenses, welfare benefits or firearms. Because of the potentially devastating consequences of a conviction, it is in the best interest of a defendant to have a strong, experienced attorney at his or her side to fight to preserve legal and constitutional rights every step of the way.

Conclusion

To better protect yourself throughout your involvement with the criminal-justice system, know your Fundamental Rights, consult with an informed, knowledgeable criminal-defense attorney. Your lawyer can work hard on your behalf to see that protections afforded criminal defendants are preserved for you.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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