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Overview of Criminal Law

Criminal law is the body of law that deals with “wrongs against society.” It does not involve disputes between individuals, but relates to offenses against the public order. Federal, state and local governments enact criminal statutes and prosecute people who commit crimes that range from minor traffic violations to serious, violent offenses, like rape or murder.

People who are charged with a crime are called defendants, and they are represented by criminal defense attorneys. The governmental body that pursues the charges against the defendant is represented by a lawyer called a prosecutor. If you are charged with a crime, you need the advice and counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights now and in the future.

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The United States Constitution prohibits taking a person’s life, liberty or property without due process of law. In order to meet this standard, a criminal statute must clearly define the conduct that is considered criminal. The law must be more than a vague description that leaves a person without notice of exactly what type of conduct is prohibited. The statute must set out the state of mind of a guilty person, called the mens rea, as well as the unlawful action, or the actus reus. Crimes of attempt, like attempted murder, are not an exception to this rule. Attempt crimes require some act toward the commission of a crime. A criminal defense attorney will be able to explain these terms to you, as well as the specific elements of the charged offense.

Every lawyer involved in the criminal justice system must adhere to a complex set of rules of procedure to ensure a fair trial. These rules apply to both prosecutors and defense attorneys. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise and guide a defendant through these complicated procedures. A defense attorney should get involved in a case at the earliest stages, even before interrogation, if possible. The arresting officers have the obligation to inform the person in custody that he or she has the right to an attorney, and the right to have an attorney appointed if he or she does not have the financial resources to pay for an attorney. Most of us are familiar with these warnings, called “Miranda” warnings, after the name of the U.S. Supreme Court case that first required that these warnings be provided.

In certain instances, criminal charges may be withdrawn after a defendant’s attorney negotiates with the prosecutor. Sometimes, the defendant pleads guilty to a less serious charge in exchange for the prosecutor’s agreement to drop the more serious charges. The final decision on whether to accept a proposed plea agreement always rests with the defendant.

Depending upon the severity of the crime committed, a defendant who is found guilty may be sentenced to probation, pay a fine, perform community service, make restitution or pay for the monetary losses caused by the crime, or incarceration. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to work with a prosecutor to fashion a deal that provides for the least severe punishment possible, or can mount an aggressive defense in court, to convince the jury that the prosecutor cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime.

Crimes committed by minors are handled by a separate criminal justice system, known as the juvenile justice system. Juvenile courts typically have less formal procedures, and a less formal manner of adjudicating cases. We handle all types of juvenile matters with the same professionalism and diligence as any adult criminal case, but with a unique awareness and understanding of the burden and stress factors associated with the arrest and criminal prosecution of one’s child.

If you are accused of a crime, you find yourself in a frightening and stressful situation. Regardless of how minor the charge may seem, you should be represented by knowledgeable, competent counsel, who can work through the criminal justice system, provide you with zealous representation, and minimize the impact of these proceedings on your life. If you have been accused of a crime, or if you know someone who has been accused of a crime, do not delay in contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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For excellent service in criminal law matters, contact the Poconos highly-acclaimed Monroe County PA law firm – Fisher & Fisher Law Offices.