What Is A Criminal Offense?

Criminal laws include prosecution by the government of a person for an act that has been categorized as a criminal offense. Civil legal matters, alternatively, consist of people and businesses attempting to handle legal disputes. In a criminal legal matter, the governmental body, through a prosecutor, brings the charges, while in a civil lawsuit the injured party brings the complaint. Persons convicted of a criminal offense may be incarcerated, fined, or both. However, individuals determined accountable in a civil action may only have to surrender property or pay compensation, but are not imprisoned.

A “crime” is any behavior or omission in violation of a public law forbidding or requiring it. Though there are some common law offenses, many criminal offenses in the United States are set up by local, state, and federal authorities. Criminal laws differ drastically from state to state. There is, nonetheless, a Model Penal Code (MPC) which acts as a fantastic beginning position to acquire an understanding of the basic composition of criminal liability.

Offenses consist of both felony violations and misdemeanor violations. Felonies are ordinarily offenses punishable by imprisonment of a year or more, while misdemeanors are offenses punishable by less than a year. Nevertheless, no action is a crime if it has not been previously established as such either by statute or common law. Recently, the list of Federal offenses dealing with behavior extending beyond state borders or having special effect on federal operations, has grown.

All statutes describing criminal action can be split up into their many elements. Almost all criminal offenses (with the exception of strict-liability crimes) encompass two elements: an act, or “actus reus,” and a mental state, or “mens rea”. Prosecutors need to demonstrate each and every element of the crime to render a conviction. Furthermore, the prosecutor has to persuade the jury or judge “beyond a reasonable doubt” of each fact needed to constitute the criminal offense charged. In civil cases, the plaintiff needs to show a defendant is liable only by a “preponderance of the evidence,” or more than 50%.

The heighten burden required in a criminal case reflects the serious consequences of a criminal conviction.

If you are being investigated or charged with a criminal offense, talk to a local Miami defense attorney about your options.