In the United States, there are two types of laws which are meant to punish wrongdoing, or compensate those who are victims of wrongdoing. These are known as criminal law and civil law, respectively.
Civil law is intended to address the behavior which causes some sort of injury to an individual, or other private party. This is generally accomplished through the use of lawsuits. The consequences for any parties that are found to be liable for such acts are generally monetary. However, legal consequences may also include court-ordered remedies, such as injunctions or restraining orders.
Alternatively, criminal law is intended to address any behavior that is considered to be an offense against society, the state, or the public. This remains true even if the victim is an individual person. Someone convicted of committing a crime can be forced to pay fines, as well as lose their freedom by being sentenced to jail or prison time.
No matter if someone is being charged with a serious crime or a minor crime, the accused person still has the right to a trial in addition to other rights.
What Is Criminal Law Procedure?
Criminal procedure refers to the overall legal process of hearing claims for a person who is accused of violating criminal laws. The overall concept behind all criminal procedures is known as the “presumption of innocence.” What this means is that a suspect is considered to be innocent until proven guilty.
Because of this, the burden of proof is on the state prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant actually committed the crime in question. While every state has their own set of criminal laws, there are certain Constitutional rights that apply to every defendant, no matter what that crime is or where it occurred. These protections serve to prevent abuses of the justice system. Some of these protections include:
- The right against unreasonable searches and seizures;
- The right to an attorney;
- The right to a speedy trial, as well as the right to a jury;
- Miranda Rights; and
- The right not to incriminate oneself, or, “pleading the fifth.”
In order to better understand criminal procedure, it is helpful to view the process as a timeline which begins with the apprehension of the suspect, and ends with the final verdict or appeal:
- Stop, detention, and arrest;
- Search and seizure;
- Filing charges;
- Suspect and/or eyewitness lineup identifications;
- Appointment of counsel, or, assigning a court-appointed lawyer to the defendant;
- Plea bargaining;
- Appeal; and
- Probation and/or parole.
There are only two bodies that are allowed to bring a criminal case against someone, which are the federal government or a state government. This is why you will see cases denoted as US v. Someone, or State v. Someone. Whether the defendant is charged in federal court or in a state court, is dependent on what crime they are being charged with as well as where the alleged offense occurred.
What Are Some Common Criminal Charges?
As previously mentioned, what constitutes a crime is determined largely by criminal statutes. These statutes describe the prohibited behavior, as well as the mental state or intent that is required for a defendant to be found guilty of the crime. Criminal statutes also contain information regarding the possible punishments for committing each specific crime.
Some criminal charges are more common than others. Generally speaking, the following are some examples of the most common criminal charges, though it is by no means an exhaustive list of what may constitute a criminal charge:
- Aggravated assault;
- Aiding and abetting;
- Assault and battery;
- Child abandonment;
- Child abuse;
- Credit and/or debit card fraud;
- Criminal contempt of court;
- Disturbing the peace;
- Domestic violence;
- Drug trafficking;
- Hate crimes;
- Indecent exposure;
- Manslaughter, both voluntary and involuntary;
- Money laundering;
- Murder, both first and second degree;
- Probation violation;
- Sexual assault;
- Tax evasion;
- Tax fraud;
- Vandalism; and
- White collar crimes.
Every jurisdiction as well as the federal courts have different ways in which to classify these crimes, ranging from misdemeanors and disorderly conduct charges to felonies. As such, what crime someone can be charged with will depend on where the crime occurred, as previously mentioned. There can be some confusion in terms of whether the offense will be charged under state law or federal law.
An example of this would be how Massachusetts criminal law outlaws dueling, and has two types of assault and battery. One relates to general assault and battery, while the other is related to debt collecting. These laws are considerably specific and may not be found in other states, so it is important to check your local laws in order to find out if your criminal actions fall under a specific statute.
What Are Some Defenses to Crimes?
When a person is accused and charged of committing a crime, they become a criminal defendant. As previously mentioned, they are presumed innocent until the government proves that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, a legal defense can excuse or justify their criminal behavior, and may prevent a criminal conviction or reduce a criminal charge.
Available defenses will vary widely, according to the specifics of each circumstance. Generally speaking, the following defenses are frequently utilized in criminal cases:
- Self defense;
- Entrapment; and
- Mistake, of law or of fact.
How Can a Northern New Jersey Criminal Lawyer Help?
Because crimes are generally dictated by statutes, which vary from state to state, it is imperative that you consult with a local criminal defense attorney as opposed to someone out of state. If you have been accused of a crime in northern New Jersey, a northern New Jersey criminal lawyer will be your best option. They will have a thorough understanding of New Jersey’s specific criminal law statutes, and may have area connections which could prove to be useful.
Does Northern New Jersey Have Any Unique Criminal Laws?
In general, New Jersey’s criminal statutes are very similar to those in other states. There are not many unique criminal laws in northern New Jersey. However, the state does have the distinction of being the first state in the United States to abolish the death penalty in over forty years.
Another criminal law that is unique to New Jersey would be that the state does not allow anyone who has a suspended or revoked driver’s license to drive themselves anywhere. This includes driving to and from work.
Additionally, the state of New Jersey divides criminal activities into categories of crimes versus disorderly persons offenses.
Should I Hire a Northern New Jersey Criminal Lawyer?
If you are accused of committing a crime in northern New Jersey, it is imperative that you consult with a New Jersey criminal lawyer. An experienced and local criminal defense attorney will be aware of your state’s criminal statutes, and whether your actions actually constitute a crime according to those statutes. Depending on the charges in each specific case, receiving a criminal conviction could result in rather serious consequences for the accused.
These consequences generally include a permanent criminal record, as well as a loss of freedom. An experienced attorney can determine whether there are any legal defenses available to you, in order to reduce or eliminate the possibility of you facing such punishments. An attorney can also represent you in court, as necessary, and ensure your legal rights are protected in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of New Jersey.