General Criminal Law

Locate a Local Criminal Lawyer

Find Lawyers in Other Categories
Most Common Defense and Criminal Law Issues

What Is Criminal Law?

Criminal law encompasses all the laws dealing with the prosecution of crime. Criminal law cases are brought by the state. This is different from civil law cases, which are brought by private citizens.

General Criminal Law

A “crime” is any type of act or omission of an act that is in violation of a public policy or law. Crimes are classified in different ways. In each state, crimes are usually classified into three different groups: infraction, misdemeanor, and felony crimes.

Criminal Evidence

The rules of criminal evidence control how parties, judges, and the jury must evaluate and admit different forms of evidence at trial. Evidence rules provide limitations and requirements that the court must follow when allowing parties to present evidence at trial.

Criminal Procedure

There are various rules and regulations that determine how the court will process criminal prosecutions. These rules also govern whether a person’s constitutional rights were protected and whether the stages of investigation, arrest, trial, and sentencing were conducted without unfair prejudice.

Criminal Sentencing

When a defendant is convicted of a crime, they will be sentenced to some sort of punishment. Criminal sentences can take a variety of forms, including serving jail time, paying fines, performing community service, and other alternatives. 

Drug Crimes

Drug crimes are one of the most common types of crime that is committed. Drug laws in every state and at the federal level prohibit the possession, manufacture, and sale of certain controlled substances. 


Felonies are the most serious offense that one can commit. Depending on the circumstances that surround the actual criminal activity and the conviction, a felony can be punishable by fines or imprisonment. The crimes classed as felonies usually involve violence and moral turpitude.

Gun Possession

Even though the Second Amendment guarantees citizens the right to keep and bear arms, there are certain laws and regulations that require permits for gun possession, and even specify where and when guns can be possessed and carried. If these rules are not followed, one can be charged with illegal gun possession.


A misdemeanor offense is a lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year. Misdemeanors usually do not carry a substantial penalty like felonies would, but could involve imprisonment if it is a repeated offense.

Parole and Probation

Probation is a sentencing procedure where the offender evades jail or prison and has the right to be free, but remains under the court's supervision for a set period of time under set standards. Parole is the stage where a person is released from imprisonment, but must remain under court supervision after serving part of their sentence.

Record Sealing or Expungement

Some convictions may be sealed and expunged so that they are not visible to potential employers and the public. Expunging a record does not completely erase the criminal conviction, since it may be used as a prior offense and is still visible to law enforcement personnel and government agencies. It is typically easier to have a misdemeanor conviction expunged than a felony conviction. 

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am Charged with a Crime?

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is always in your best interest to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A criminal defense lawyer can advise you of your rights and represent you in any criminal legal proceedings. They can also help negotiate a plea agreement and assist you in expunging or sealing your criminal record.

Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 01-15-2015 10:38 AM PST

Find the Right Lawyer Now

Link to this page

Law Library Disclaimer

LegalMatch Service Mark