The most efficient way to discover if you have a criminal case against someone is to contact the police and a lawyer. Some cases go unreported and without punishment because the victim may not have been mindful that they were victimized in the first place.
Below are a few indicators that you may have a criminal case:
- You were deliberately physically injured, or you were hurt as a result of someone’s careless actions;
- Your property was used or taken without your permission; or
- You agreed to something out of deception, trickery, fear, or force.
If you have been injured in any way, contact the police immediately. The sooner you do so, the more likely it is for law enforcement to arrest the suspect.
It’s essential to mention that even if you contact the police, they have the right not to press charges. Ultimately, it is up to the state, and if they feel that they do not have enough to charge or convict a person, they have every right not to pursue the case. If they do not pursue the case, your next choice is to sue the individual in civil court.
What Are Some Common Criminal Charges?
There are many criminal law matters. The most fundamental principle in criminal law is whether the crime was against the individual or property. A crime against the person would involve charges like:
- Assault and battery;
- Kidnapping; and
- Any other crimes that include bringing injury to a person.
Crimes against property would be:
- Breaking and entering;
- Trespassing; and
- Any other offenses that involve personal property (items) and real property (land, houses, etc.)
Some criminal law matters are directly related to others. For example, if an individual who is not a citizen of the United States is charged with a crime, they may also be deported or face other immigration penalties. Another instance would be the theft of someone’s intellectual property, particularly a copyright violation. In this case, intellectual property laws are violated, and federal criminal charges may be filed.
How Are Criminal Violations Punished?
The penalty for a criminal conviction depends on the crime. A defendant may be issued a fine or community service for minor misdemeanors. For lesser charges, first-time offenders can receive “time served” when the defendant spent some time in jail and will not need to return. Depending on the charges, they may also receive probation for a certain number of months to a year.
As the severity of the nature of the crime increases, so do the penalties. Jail time or imprisonment is standard for more severe charges. But the death penalty for the most serious of criminal charges is possible.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is described as a type of criminal offense in most states. A convicted person may receive a small criminal fine, up to twelve months of imprisonment (i.e., one-year maximum sentence), or both.
Misdemeanor charges are usually more severe than a citation or infraction but are less severe than a felony offense. Nevertheless, the definition of misdemeanor charges will vary according to the laws of a particular state since each state has its own classification procedure.
Despite the distinctions between varying state statutes, the most standard characteristic found across all definitions of a misdemeanor is that it is normally only punishable by up to a year in prison.
Some instances of crimes that are normally classified as misdemeanors include the following:
- Petty theft;
- Simple battery or assault;
- Evading police;
- Criminal mischief;
- Possession of a controlled substance; and
- Interference with child custody.
As is evident from the above list, many crimes may be classified as misdemeanors. Furthermore, whether or not an offense is marked a misdemeanor crime will depend on the laws in a particular jurisdiction and the events of an individual case.
What Is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?
The immediate difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is that felonies tend to be more severe crimes, which often involve an aspect of violence. The other major distinction between the two is the form of punishment that a convicted defendant can receive.
Since felony charges are more extreme than misdemeanors, they often result in a prison sentence that lasts longer than a year and may include paying a greater amount in criminal fines.
In general, crimes classified as felonies usually require proof of a higher mental state of intent (i.e., mens rea) than the level necessary to perpetrate a misdemeanor. Felony crimes also tend to cause more significant harm to their victims, including injuring a person, society overall, or more extreme property damage.
For instance, the felony offense known as “grand theft” normally involves the theft of property with a dollar amount that exceeds $1,000. In distinction, the lesser misdemeanor offense known as “petty theft” applies to the theft of property valued at $1,000 or less. Furthermore, these values may vary per specific state statutes.
Most misdemeanor offenses are victimless crimes, such as being in contempt of court, receiving specific traffic citations, and committing disorderly conduct. On the other hand, felonies usually result in extreme bodily injury, damage, and death. Some examples of felonies include first-degree murder, rape, and robbery.
One final discrepancy is that although both will appear on the defendant’s criminal record, misdemeanor charges are relatively easier to have expunged or removed than felony charges.
Are There Different Types of Misdemeanors?
Most states have a classification system that determines how to resolve whether it falls under a misdemeanor offense and what the resulting sentence should be for perpetrating a particular type of misdemeanor crime. For instance, a state may separate misdemeanor crimes into levels, such as Class 1 or A, two or B, three or C, etc.
The state may also organize it by the amount of damage or injury caused by the crime. For example, Class A misdemeanors are usually reserved for the more severe crimes that warrant greater punishment but still fall below those crimes and penalties that would qualify it to be a felony.
In distinction, Class D misdemeanors involve the most minor types of misdemeanor offenses. Nevertheless, most states have stopped classifying misdemeanors (i.e., unclassified) as Class C.
As a general example, a misdemeanor assault that results in bodily injury will most likely be categorized as a Class A misdemeanor offense. If the injury leads to extreme damage or death, the crime can be elevated from a misdemeanor offense to a felony charge (e.g., homicide).
Further, the misdemeanor assault can also become a felony charge when it involves an aggravating factor, such as if the assault was perpetrated using a deadly weapon, if the defendant was a repeat offender, or if the assault victim was a kid or minor.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with a Criminal Case?
If you think you may have a criminal case, contact a local criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to communicate with law enforcement, help you organize any required evidence, and help you throughout the legal process. Not only will an attorney help you with your criminal case, but they may also be able to help you sue the defendant in civil court.