What is Criminal Law?

What is criminal law? Criminal law refers to the body of federal or state law that governs criminal conduct. It proscribes action perceived as dangerous, threatening, harmful, or otherwise harming to another person’s property, life, health, physical safety, or moral integrity. These actions are classified as crimes. Criminal offenses are considered crimes because they are violations of the laws that govern criminal behavior. Criminal laws vary by state. In fact, each state has a multitude of criminal laws that may apply to specific circumstances.

Criminal Laws and Federal Criminal Laws

Criminal laws are governed by a number of federal laws including federal laws that regulate offenses against the United States and federal laws that prohibit certain offenses. Federal criminal laws also include offenses that are punished by imprisonment, including federal crimes against the United States like conspiracy. Most federal crimes are punished with a fine or even a short term of imprisonment. However, some federal offenses can result in long-term prison sentences. Some of these federal criminal offenses include:

  • tax crimes
  • mail and wire fraud
  • terrorism
  • obstruction of justice
  • drug offenses
  • theft crimes
  • racketeering
  • kidnapping
  • assault
  • arson
  • burglary
  • racketeering
  • fraud.

Federal Criminal Laws

Federal criminal laws provide prosecutors with the authority to file charges against an individual for any violation of the criminal laws. The prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution is successful in proving the defendant’s guilt, then the defendant is tried and convicted in the state in which the crime was committed. There are many other types of crimes including treason, fraud, kidnapping, and assault that can be prosecuted in state court. In addition, some federal crimes are prosecuted in state court. Federal crimes are punished with longer prison sentences than state crimes. Many federal crimes involve lengthy sentences like:

  • espionage
  • sabotage
  • conspiracy
  • murder
  • terrorism.
What is Criminal Law?
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