Introduction To Criminal Law
What Is A Crime?
- What Is A Crime?
- What Are The Main Criminal Terms?
- The Criminal System (Introduction).
What Is A Crime?
According to the University Of London Law School a crime is:
‘...when the conduct in question has a sufficiently serious social impact to justify the state, rather than (in the case of breach of contract or trespass) the individual affected, taking on the case of the injured party’.
In other words ‘a crime’ is an act that the state has identified as having a serious social impact. It is a public wrong that involves some form of ‘harm to society’.
An important difference between a crime and other illegal acts is that being found guilty of a crime usually leads to punishment such as time in Jail, where as other acts, such as Torts, are acts against a person and generally lead to some form of compensation for loss or damages.
Many offences come under the title of ‘criminal acts’ such as:
- Tax evasion
- Insider Trading
- Sexual offenses
- Property offenses.
As a criminal act is a crime against society, it is the 'legal authority' or state who brings criminal charges against a person. A person convicted of a crime may be put in jail for a period to protect the rest of society from them and their actions. Corporations can be charged with criminal offenses. Corporate managers can also face fines and jail sentences if they are found guilty of criminal actions.
What Are The Main Criminal Terms?
Criminal Charges: This is where someone has been charged with (accused of) a criminal offence. It means that a government authority (police or other authorized authority) has made a formal accusation that someone has a committed a crime. In a criminal case, the government brings charges.
Criminal Case: This is the criminal proceeding after a person has been ‘charged’ with a crime
Victim: This person has suffered in some way. This may be the government or state.
Defendant: This person has been accused of criminal wrongdoing.
Conviction: This is when a defendant has been found guilty of a criminal offence. They are ‘convicted’ of the crime. After the guilty verdict, they are then sentenced.
Sentence: This is the punishment given to a person (the defendant) when they are convicted of a crime. If the defendant loses, they must must serve a sentence. ‘Sentence’ refers to the amount of prison time ordered after conviction.
E.g. “You are convicted of murder and you are sentenced to life in prison”.
Felonies: These are serious criminal acts such as murder and rape.
Misdemeanors: These are lesser offenses such as traffic fines.
The Criminal System
Criminal law is written in statutes (law passed by a legislative body). Criminal laws are made by elected legal representatives who decide what is harmful to society. Criminal laws and punishment may vary between countries.
You can see the Criminal Law Act of 1967 from the U.K. Here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1967/58/contents
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