Criminal Law Definition and Examples

What Is Criminal Law?

If you are facing a criminal charge, it is important for you to know what this area of the law is. Criminal acts can be complicated and are punishable by the government. Let’s take a look at criminal law definitions and examples of the types of crimes.

Types of Criminal Cases

Some types of criminal cases are:

  • Assault or battery occurs when someone intentionally threatens, hits or attempts to hit another.
  • Arson occurs when someone intentionally sets a fire.
  • Child and domestic abuse occurs when someone causes emotional or physical harm to another.
  • Kidnapping occurs when someone forcibly and intentionally takes another person and restrains them without their consent.
  • Rape occurs when someone takes sexual advantage of a person without their consent.
  • Homicide occurs when someone takes another’s life. There are different degrees of murder.
  • Drug crimes occur when someone sells, distributes, or buys drugs illegally.
  • Sex-related crimes are those that include rape, sexual abuse, child molestation, indecent exposure, child pornography, internet sex crimes, and prostitution.
  • Theft occurs when someone’s property is taken against their will. 
  • Conspiracy occurs when two or more people conspire to commit an illegal act and benefit from it.
  • Aiding and abetting occur when a person helps or encourages another to commit a crime.
  • Some types of traffic crimes such as DUI are considered criminal acts such as leaving the scene of a crime or committing an egregious act while drunk.
  • Violent crimes are those committed with force or the threat of using force.
  • Cybercrimes involve a computer and a network, often done for financial gain.
  • Federal crimes are those charged by the FBI, DEA, and the IRS.
  • Juvenile crimes are felony offenses committed by those in an underage brackett, which varies by state.
  • White-collar crimes are nonviolent acts that enrich the wrongdoer at someone else’s expense.

How Are Criminal and Civil Law Different?

There are two main areas of the law. One is called criminal law, which punishes the wrongdoer with jail or fines. It includes acts against the state, the society within which we live, and the public. Examples range from drunk driving to murder. 

Civil law refers to a personal injury to another party or individual and is based on negligence. It can range from a car accident injury to property damage and wrongful death. Punishment is usually financial where the defendant pays the monetary damages associated with an accident. 

In addition, personal injury law and criminal law differ in terms of who files the charges. In criminal law, usually, a prosecutor, acting on behalf of the state or federal government, will bring charges against the defendant. In civil cases, the person that is injured files a case against the at-fault party. 

Proof in a Civil Case vs a Criminal One

A criminal case is usually decided by a jury. The jury bases their decision on the proof the person committed the crime. Because of the gravity of a criminal case, the bar for this decision is high. The prosecutor must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The defendants have constitutional rights that protect them from misdeeds by the police or the prosecutor. These include the Fourth Amendment, which protects you from unreasonable seizures and searches. You are also protected from self-incrimination (the Fifth Amendment).

In a civil case, the injured party files a claim against an at-fault party or their insurer. A judge can decide the case but large or significant cases may have a jury. The proof that is given must prove the person’s liability by the preponderance of the evidence. A monetary award is meted out, not imprisonment. 

Can Criminal Evidence Be Used in Both Types of Cases?

Yes, it can. Since the evidence in a criminal case is stronger than that of a civil case, the conviction of a crime associated with it can be used to prove liability. A prime example of this is the civil case brought against O.J. Simpson. Even though he won the criminal case, a civil case brought by the Brown and Goldman families was successful.

How an Attorney Can Help

A criminal defense lawyer can help by reviewing the charges against his/her client, examining crime scene reports and other evidence, and interviewing witnesses. After gathering strong evidence against their client’s innocence, a robust case can be built. 

In some cases, the criminal defense lawyer will work out a plea deal. This allows the defendant to avoid imprisonment in some cases or decrease the charges. 

Travis Law Firm

If you are facing criminal charges, call the Travis Law Firm for help. You can reach us by calling (814) 277-2222 in Erie, Pennsylvania, or contact us online. We can meet with you in our office or come to you.