There are two types of laws that are meant to punish wrongdoing or to compensate victims of bad acts in the United States. These types of law are criminal law and civil law.
Civil law is intended to deal with behaviors that cause an injury to an individual or to another private party. These behaviors are dealt with through lawsuits.
In civil law, the repercussions for a party that is found liable are typically monetary. However, they may also include court-ordered remedies such as injunctions and restraining orders.
On the other hand, criminal laws are intended to deal with behaviors that are considered an offense against society, the state, or the public, even when the victim is an individual. If an individual is convicted of a crime, they may be required to pay criminal fines and may also lose their freedom by prison time or a jail sentence.
No matter whether an individual is charged with a minor misdemeanor or a serious felony, the accused, called the defendant, has the right to a trial and other legal protections.
What Does Criminal Law Procedure Cover?
Criminal law procedure is how criminal laws are applied when an individual commits a criminal offense. There are only two entities that can bring a criminal charge against an individual, a state government or the federal government.
Whether a defendant is charged in federal court or a state court depends on the crime with which they are being charged and where the alleged offense took place. Criminal cases are styled U.S. v. Defendant or State v. Defendant.
Each state has its own set of criminal laws. However, there are Constitutional rights which apply to every defendant, no matter what the crime or where it occurred.
These rights include:
- The right to a speedy trial. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial to prevent an accused person from being kept in jail for extended periods of time without adjudication;
- The right to a trial by jury, which is also guaranteed in the Sixth Amendment. Many jurisdictions allow a defendant to waive a jury in favor of a bench trial, where guilt is determined by a judge. This right is universal with criminal prosecution only, as civil trials have their own rules regarding jury rights;
- Miranda rights, which give the criminal defendant access to an attorney whether or not they can afford one to aid in their defense; and
- Protection against self-incrimination, which is known as pleading the fifth. Pursuant to the Fifth Amendment, a defendant cannot be forced to testify against their own interest.
What are Some Commonly Cited Criminal Charges?
Criminal charges are classified from less serious petty offenses such as simple theft to serious offenses such as drug trafficking and murder. Every state and the federal courts have different classifications of crime, from misdemeanors to felonies.
The crime a defendant can be charged with depends on where the crime occurred. There may be confusion regarding where the offense will be charged under state law or federal law. The best way to remedy this confusion is to consult with a local criminal defense attorney.
Criminal laws often vary widely by state. Some states have unique criminal statutes. For example, Massachusetts criminal laws outlaw dueling.
There may be specific unusual criminal laws in each state. Because of this, it is important for an individual to review their local laws to determine what criminal actions are punishable in their state.
What are Commonly Raised Criminal Defenses to Crimes?
There are several commonly raised criminal defenses to crimes. These include:
- Duress or necessity;
- Entrapment; and
Self-defense can generally be used when the defendant was not the aggressor. This defense is used when the defendant was responding to a threat and reasonably believed they were in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death.
Many states recognize the duress or necessity defense to a crime that was committed under the threat of death or serious bodily injury. For example, if an individual is forced to steal a car while a gun is pointed to their head, they could use the duress defense. Necessity is used when an individual must commit a crime in order to survive, such as breaking into a mountain cabin to prevent freezing to death in a blizzard.
Although a mental disease or defect is not typically a defense, if a defendant suffers from a severe mental illness or defect at the time of the offense, the insanity defense may prevent them from facing incarceration. Individuals who successfully present this defense are sent to a mental facility for treatment.
Intoxication alone is not a defense to criminal charges. However, if a defendant was involuntarily intoxicated, such as if they were unknowingly drugged or forced to consume large amounts of alcohol, this may be a viable defense to criminal charges.
An alibi defense provides a reason that it was impossible for the defendant to commit the charged crime. For example, if a defendant was charged with a crime in Florida but was able to prove they were in California at the time, this would be a strong alibi which would likely prevent a conviction because it would have been physically impossible for the defendant to commit the crime.
Law enforcement officers are prohibited from inducing or persuading an individual to commit a crime which they had no previous intention to commit, known as entrapment. If the defendant can prove their arrest resulted from law enforcement entrapment, they cannot be convicted of the crime, even if they actually committed it.
A mistake of law, or not knowing or understanding a law, does not excuse or justify criminal behavior. However, a mistake of fact may provide a defense. For example, if a defendant grabs another individual’s bag at the airport, mistaking it for their own, they may avoid theft if they can show the wrong bag was taken by mistake.
How Can a Williamson County, TX Criminal Lawyer Help?
A Williamson County, Texas criminal lawyer can provide enormous help to a defendant who may be facing jail time and life-long consequences. Every criminal case and every criminal defendant is unique. A Williamson County, Texas lawyer will be familiar with the local laws and courtrooms and will be able to provide the most effective defense possible.
Are There Any Unique Criminal Laws in Williamson County, TX?
Yes, there are unique criminal laws in Williamson County, Texas as well as across the state of Texas. One of the most notable Texas punishments is the use of capital punishment.
Capital punishment is currently authorized in 27 states as well as by the federal government and the United States military. Texas has the highest rate of death penalty executions in the U.S.
An individual may receive the death penalty in Texas if they commit a capital felony, or a crime in which the individual intentionally or knowingly caused the death of another individual under special circumstances, such as:
- Murder of a public safety officer or a firefighter in the line of duty;
- Murder during the commission of certain specified felonies, including:
- Aggravated rape; and
- Murder for remuneration;
- Multiple murders;
- Murder during a prison escape;
- Murder of a correctional officer;
- Murder of a judge;
- Murder by a state prison inmate who is serving a life sentence for any of five offenses; or
- Murder of an individual who is under the age of six.
An individual must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the crime in order to have the death penalty imposed upon them in Texas.
Do I Need to Hire a Criminal Lawyer in Williamson County, Texas?
Yes, it is essential to hire a criminal defense attorney in Williamson County, Texas. Facing criminal charges can be confusing, intimidating, and life-altering for anyone.
You may be facing serious consequences, including a criminal record and the loss of your freedom. Your attorney will review your case, determine if any defenses are available, and protect your rights in court by appearing with you. You have the right to access a criminal defense attorney any time you are facing criminal charges, no matter how large or small.