Criminal Law

     If you’re not sure if your case is criminal or civil — or potentially both — find out here.

What is a Crime?

     A crime is a wrongful act that the state or federal government has identified as a crime because it injures or interferes with the interest of society.  Crimes are identified within a publicly-accessible, fixed body of statutes (penal codes, ordinances, building codes, etc.) called laws, which are enforced by officers. 

   A criminal case is a criminal proceeding.  The accused is called a ‘defendant”.  The victim is:

  • the person who has been hurt.
  • the state.
  • other governmental agency (i.e. city, county, etc.).

     The charges are brought by the government.  If the defendant loses, the defendant must serve a sentence.  A fine is paid to the government and there is possible restitution to the victim. [1]

When Laws become Torts or Officers Commit Crimes:

     Laws which which are likely to violate civil rights are a liability against taxpayers; such laws can be challenged & overturned via following the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (see Rule 5.1).

     When an officer violates a civilian’s rights, it is called a Constitutional tort, which is a type of tort

     If the officer violated procedure & commit a crime, it is called a color of law crime.  If the (county, city, state, federal, tribal, etc.) agency did not properly train or vet the officer, the agency can be held accountable via filing a claim.

Fair Administration of Justice:

     The judicial branch must apply the existing laws to each individual situation, to be sure justice is administered fairly.  This includes punishing those who are guilty of breaking the law, and keeping the rest of the community safe from crime.  

     At the U.S. District Court level, the government is represented by the United States Attorney (or an Assistant United States Attorney), also called the prosecuting attorney.

The 6th Amendment
Guarantees Right to Counsel:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

      Anyone accused of a federal felony has a right to be assisted by a lawyer for every step of the process, even if they can’t afford one.  (A felony is a crime carrying a jail term of more than one year.)   The defendant can retain, or hire, their own defense attorney, or they may have one appointed for them if they financially unable to hire an attorney for their defense.  In many cases, the appointed attorney will be from the Federal Public Defenders Office.  Defendants are also allowed to represent themselves, and this is called pro se[2]

More information coming soon.

References:

[1]: LawHelp.org, GeorgeLegalAid.org, “The Difference between Torts and Crimes” by: Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia:  www.georgialegalaid.org/resource/the-difference-between-torts-and-crimes

[2]: Judicial Learning Center, “What Courts Do; Criminal Cases”:  http://judiciallearningcenter.org/types-of-court-cases/

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