Criminal Law 101: The Basics

Criminal law is a body of law that defines all federal and state crimes and their related consequences. If you’ve ever wondered what all encompasses criminal law, here are the basics of what you should know about it:

Types of Crimes

There are two categories of crimes: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that are considered “less serious” than a felony. They are minor crimes that may be punishable by a fine and/or short-term incarceration. In most states, they are usually ranked by three different classes, depending on the nature of the crime; Class A misdemeanors are usually ranked as the most severe of misdemeanors, while Class C misdemeanors are the least serious. Some examples of misdemeanors include:

  • Petty theft
  • Criminal trespass
  • Vandalism
  • Reckless damage/destruction

Felonies, on the other hand, are considered more serious crimes in the eyes of the law. As a result, they may be punishable by more serious consequences, such as longer incarceration times. Like misdemeanors, felonies are categorized by degrees, ranging from the first through fourth degree. Examples of felonies include:

Consequences of Crimes

The types of consequences you may see from a crime will depend on the nature of the crime, including the people involved and the alleged crime itself. Both state and federal laws outline the range of punishments possible depending on these factors. These consequences may include:

  • Fines – Fines are fees that are assigned to a guilty party, in which the individual is expected to pay back over a period of time. The more serious the crime, the more likely these fees increase.
  • Incarceration – Incarceration involves time in jail or prison. The length of a jail or prison sentence depends on the nature of the crime.
  • Probation – Probation is a type of punishment that is issued in lieu of jail time. If a criminal is able to follow a strict set of guidelines, such as not committing additional crimes, or staying within a certain region, then he or she may be able to avoid incarceration.
  • Alternative Sentences – These are all punishments that do not usually involve jail time, and are usually for misdemeanor crimes. Some examples of alternative sentences include community service or drug/alcohol rehabilitation programs.

If you have been accused of a misdemeanor or felony crime, and are at risk of seeing such consequences as a result, give Nathanial Pitoniak a call for a free consultation. He is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who specializes in a large range of crimes. He will be able to help you find the right, strategic defense for your case.