ABC’s of Crime and Criminal Law

What is Criminal Laws?

The U.S. Congress and state legislature execute criminal laws. Traditionally, the state courts have adopted the criminal laws based on the common law from England.

The current movement is for the legislature, instead of the courts to compose criminal law. The majority of the crimes that are committed are protected by state criminal laws. For instance, if a crime such as a robbery took place within a state, and was committed by individuals from the state, it will be covered by state criminal laws.

Some of the crimes that are dealt with as Federal crimes include:

  • Federal employees
  • Federal taxes
  • Federal property
  • Receipt of federal benefits
  • Civil rights that are federally guaranteed
  • Infractions that include interstate commerce such as transporting individuals or good through state lines

For instance, assaulting a federal employee or robbing a U.S. post office is considered to be a federal crime.

What are the types of Crimes?

Crimes are divided into two underlying divisions:

  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors

These divisions depend on the seriousness of the crime and the extent of the punishment. A felony is when the committed crime is punishable for imprisonment for over one year. You have the right to a jury when charged with a felony crime. A few of the common law felonies include:

  • Robbery
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Burglary
  • Treason
  • Kidnapping

When charged with a misdemeanor, this generally means that the crime is punishable for less than one year imprisonment. If the misdemeanor is considered to be serious enough you also have the right to a jury in trial.

The common law system that divides crimes such as misdemeanors and felonies is increasingly being replaced with modern systems.

These modern systems are based on model law that is known as the Model Penal Code which distributes the crimes by degree.

First degree crimes consist the most severe crimes such as:

  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder

Fourth degree crimes consist of the least severe crimes such as mischief.

The Model Penal Code additionally recognizes criminal conduct less severe than crimes, such as violations and offenses.

Elements of Crimes

– Basic Elements

Crimes other than liability crimes have two basic elements, which are things that the prosecutor has to justify in order to convict the defendant. There two basic elements are a guilty act and a guilty mind.

When a guilty act is accompanied by a guilty mind is when it is considered for a crime to be committed.

In order to determine the actors state of mind the Model Penal Code used these following terms:

  • Knowledge
  • Purpose
  • Negligence
  • Recklessness