Understanding Criminal Law

A law book with a gavel – Criminal law

Although most people are fairly familiar with the basic principals of criminal law, having learned at least some of its most important aspects throughout the course of their lives, how it applies to real life situations can be quite different. Criminal law is a broad topic that covers many different areas of the penal law, and it can take quite a few years of studying to gain a thorough understanding of it. However, the basics of criminal law can be grasped quicker if you are willing to do your research.

What Is Criminal Law?

Criminal law is essentially the rules and guidelines set out by state legislators as well as Congress regarding what sort of penalties apply to those who engage in publicly harmful criminal activities. Criminal law also defines the way that criminals are prosecuted and charged, as well as the way investigations, are carried out to determine whether or not a specific individual or group of individuals is guilty of charges. Before an individual can be charged guilty under criminal law, the prosecution must convince the court that there was the intention behind the criminal act.

Criminal law is almost always imposed by the State, and the criminal statutes of each jurisdiction will basically decide the punishment that is applied to the criminal offender. Punishments defined as “cruel and unusual” are not permitted, and normally there are various degrees of punishment that will be administered. The purpose of enforced criminal law is to deter the criminal from continuing to engage in the same or other criminal activities, rehabilitate the criminal, and administer retribution for crimes. There are a wide range of different sentences that will vary according to the severity of the crime, and in many cases a jury will decide the outcome of the appeal. The most usual punishments for violating a criminal law include obligatory community service, fines, probation, and imprisonment.

The outcome of any criminal charges will depend on a variety of factors. In some situations, cases are dismissed simply because investigators obtained incriminating evidence through illegal means (means the violated criminal investigation procedures. Sometimes, an offender can get a lesser sentence by agreeing to plead guilty in front of the court. In other cases, a jury will decide whether or not a specific individual is guilty. If the jury acquits this person, he/she will be free of charges. However, if the jury convicts the individual, a prison sentence or other punishment will most likely apply.


Criminal law is a large topic that you should definitely consider familiarizing yourself with if you or your family has run into problems with the law. Knowing about the criminal statutes that apply in your respective state will enable you to better defend yourself should the need to do so arise. In most cases, hiring a personal defense attorney will be the option of choice. Here are some links to web sites that provide a wealth of information related to criminal law that you might find useful.