What is Criminal Law?

What is Criminal Law?

Criminal law is an area of the law that deals with the legal issues related to crimes. It is a body of rules and statutes that forbid certain actions because these actions might endanger the safety and welfare of the people. When a crime is committed, criminal law also determines the appropriate punishment that should be imposed to the offender.

When is an Act Considered a Crime?

An act, or a failure to act, becomes a crime if it violates a certain legislation. Most crimes in criminal law (with the exception of strict-liability crimes) require the elements of actus reus or mens rea. Actus reus refers to the physical aspect of the crime – such as the commission of an act, the threat of committing an act, or the failure to act (in this case the act was a legal duty and should have been performed). Mens rea refers to the person’s mental state during the time the crime was being committed. Wrongful intent must have existed for most crimes to be proven.

Criminal Law vs. Civil Law

In criminal law, cases are brought up generally by the State through a Prosecutor. The issue is deemed as between the state and the defendant (ie. what was committed is dangerous to the safety and welfare of the people as a whole). For these cases, a conviction may result in an imprisonment, fine, or other types of sentence which are designed to deter, punish, and rehabilitate the defendant, and to eventually protect the society. This is different from civil law wherein the issue is deemed as between the individual victim and the defendant. Unlike in criminal law, civil cases will have to be initiated by the victim. Convictions will require the defendant to pay money or surrender property as compensation for damages done to the victim.

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Doogue + George Criminal Defence Lawyers

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  • Over 100 years of combined experience in criminal defence
  • Over 15,000 separate criminal prosecutions defended
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  • Experts in criminal law, traffic law, and corporate crime
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