The Criminal Law Process in America

According to the American legal system, the term “criminal law” refers to substantive criminal laws. Substantive Criminal Law pertains to crime and punishment.

Substantive Criminal Law specifies:

  • Acts that are considered crimes and the circumstances under which these acts do not qualify as crimes.
  • Sanctions that are imposed on the individual/s guilty of committing the crime.

In a criminal case, it is the State that holds the trial against the accused. Substantive criminal law specifies what the government is required to prove to convict the accused.

The State is also bound by Procedural criminal law that specifies the process police must follow to investigate the charges and detain the suspects. Procedural law also establishes how the courts will control the police conduct, how the guilt will be determined, and the punishment imposed.

Criminal law and Procedural law are different from the criminal procedure.

Criminal Procedure specifies the process through which the criminal laws are enforced.

The difference between substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, and procedural law can best be understood with this example.

Consider a criminal activity like murder. In this case, Substantive criminal law is the law that identifies murder as a crime. Criminal procedure, in this case, will be how the government enforces substantive law. Procedural laws pertain to the control of the courts on the criminal procedure in the case. For instance, the procedural law will specify how the evidence is collected and the guilt determined, etc.

The American Criminal Law is governed by common law, State and Federal statutes. In addition to these, federal and state constitutions also have a role in determining the laws.

The process followed in America for criminal cases is that each state prosecutes the accused of violating the state’s criminal statutes. The prosecution by the state is based on their understanding of common law and its limitations as imposed by the state and federal governments.

In the case of Federal prosecution for violations of Federal criminal statutes, these prosecutions are based on their interpretation of the common laws and the restrictions imposed by the federal constitution.

Each state defines a criminal code that includes a collection of criminal statutes. The criminal code refers to crimes recognized by the state and defense recognized by the state. The criminal code can also articulate the cross-cutting principles of criminal liability.

Criminal codes are specified in two parts namely the general part and the special part. The general part of the criminal code defines the words/phrases that are used throughout the code. The special part of the code sets forth elements of the crime that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the defendant.

Similarly, the Federal government specifies crimes and defenses according to criminal statutes.

There are various aspects to be considered in a criminal case before an individual is proved guilty. Besides, several laws determine the outcome of a criminal case. Only a criminal lawyer who is knowledgeable about all these aspects can represent a defendant in a criminal case.

Autrey Law Firm has the best criminal lawyers who are updated with all aspects of criminal laws!