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General Criminal Law

An Overview of Separate Jurisdictions

An Overview of Separate Jurisdictions

The term jurisdiction refers to the authority of a government to preside over criminal cases and deliver justice through investigation, criminal trials, and criminal sentencing. Within the United States, jurisdiction may fall to various different governments and judicial proceedings may be regulated by the laws of different levels of government. 
There are three primary levels of law and Government. They include State governments, the Federal Government, and international laws. When a crime is committed by an individual, a group of individuals, a community, or a foreign government, it must first be determined who has jurisdiction over the case that results. Each level of Government focuses on different types of crimes. It may be impractical for one level of Government to be responsible for maintaining jurisdiction over specific crimes, while it may be reasonable for another level of Government to preside over those cases. There are various different factors that are considered when determining jurisdiction.
Background
Determining jurisdiction is one of the most important aspects of a criminal investigation. In order for an investigation to occur, it must first be determined who has jurisdiction over the case. The term jurisdiction refers to who or what level of Government has the authority to govern a specific case.
Jurisdiction often becomes a point of argument between various authorities. There are a wide range of factors that are taken into account when determining who has jurisdiction over a case. These factors include where the crime was committed, who was involved in the crime, and what types of crimes were committed. Who has jurisdiction over a case may often be very clear and straightforward. 
However, in some cases technicalities may cause disagreements over who should maintain jurisdiction over a case. The authorities that are granted jurisdiction are responsible for presiding over a case. Therefore, a thorough criminal investigation cannot begin until jurisdiction is determined. 
State Law
In the majority of cases, the State Government is responsible for investigating and punishing criminal activities. Most laws are created at a State level. These laws include laws regarding domestic violence, hunting, and traffic laws. The majority of individuals who take part in deviant behavior will be tried in a State court. 
In general, the State maintains jurisdiction over a case if the criminal activity occurred within the State boundaries. Therefore, the State Government will be responsible for collecting evidence, presenting it to a court, and penalizing the offender. 
Each State is required to create its own laws, with limited interference from the Federal Government. Laws will vary a great deal from one State to another. Every State will define activities that it considers to be harmful and illegal, and it will create punishments that it considers to be fitting. Crimes that may be punished severely in one State may be punished much less harshly in another State. 
Federal Law
The Federal Government has limited power in enforcing criminal laws or punishing criminal activity. In most cases, the creation and enforcement of criminal laws is the responsibility of the State. However, the Federal Government has created some necessary Federal laws that must be adhered to by individuals throughout the country. These Federal laws will often influence the laws that each State develops. 
Although the Federal Government has limited power in criminal law cases, the Government may acquire jurisdiction over a case in specific instances. Where the crime took place, who was involved in the criminal activity, and what crimes were committed are all factors that may determine whether or not the Federal Government has jurisdiction over a case. In general, the Federal Government has jurisdiction over cases that involve activity that would be illogical for one State to attempt to investigate and prosecute. A State may also choose to enlist the assistance of the Federal Government in criminal cases. 
International Law
Throughout history, the necessity for an effective method of establishing and enforcing international law becomes more and more evident. International law is extremely difficult to enforce because of State sovereignty. Violating a country’s sovereignty may lead to heated disputes and war.
International law is usually focused on punishing crimes against humanity. These may include a wide variety of activities that are used to humiliate, degrade, torture, and hurt other individuals. In many countries, governments use this type of behavior to instill fear, guarantee loyalty, and obtain confessions or information. The United Nations was established in order to create international law and combat crimes against humanity, though enforcing these laws has often proven to be a difficult task. 
Philosophies have been adopted that allow any country to try and sentence an individual who is guilty of crimes against humanity. New organizations are being developed in order to help create effective methods of trying and administering sentences for individuals who violate international law.

What You Must Know About Special Defenses

What You Must Know About Special Defenses

Special defenses are generally employed when it is unlikely that an attorney will be capable of proving their client’s innocence due to the evidence and testimony supplied by the prosecutor. 
The criminal defense attorney may attempt to utilize a special defense in order to diminish their client’s criminal liability. Defense lawyers may choose to employ these defenses in order to prove that extraneous circumstances have made it unconstitutional to sentence a defendant for their detrimental actions. 
The special defense that an attorney may choose to employ can be a defense that is well-known and common, or it may be a defense that is unique and seemingly bizarre. There have been many instances in which a ludicrous criminal defense, such as the “matrix defense,” has been successful in negating a defendant’s criminal culpability. A successful special defense will assist a defendant in avoiding criminal sentencing or may reduce the severity of the sentence that an offender receives.
Infancy
When an individual stands trial for a criminal offense it is essential that they find an attorney who will establish a convincing and acceptable criminal defense. The defense must encompass evidence and an explanation that proves the defendant’s innocence or negates their criminal liability. There are many different forms of defense that an attorney may attempt to employ while attempting to lessen or negate their client’s criminal sentence. 
In modern history, one of the more reliable defenses is the defense of infancy. This criminal defense is only effective if the defendant has not yet reached the age that has been designated as the age of criminal responsibility. 
However, even if the defendant is under the age of criminal liability, this defense may not be successful in negating the defendant’s responsibility or punishment for the crime that they have committed. A child can be tried in the juvenile justice system or, in some cases, they may be tried as an adult. In cases such as this, they will be sentenced to an adult punishment.
Duress
Sometimes it is difficult to determine when an offender should be held liable for the illegal actions in which they have taken part. Sometimes an individual may take part in criminal behavior without any intention or desire to cause harm to another person. If an offender takes part in an illegal activity without the intent of causing harm it seems unfair that they receive a severe sentence for their actions. This is especially true when a crime is committed under duress.
 
In some rare cases, an individual may take part in illegal activities because they feel that they have no other choice. They maybe be forced to take part in criminal behavior by another individual through the use of force or through the threat of violence. When this occurs a criminal defense attorney will use the defense of duress. In order for the duress defense to be effective there a various different aspects of the defense that must be satisfied. 
Necessity
In some instances an individual may take part in criminal behavior because they have no other choice. It is possible for necessity to compel an individual to violate the law. Extraneous circumstances may cause a law abiding citizen to take part in criminal activities. The Government recognizes that in rare instances it is necessary to break the law in order to minimize the injury and the damage that another person or another person’s property may sustain. 
In order to avoid causing extreme physical injury or the loss of life an individual may be required to take part in criminal activities. Therefore, it is possible for a criminal defense attorney to utilize the defense of necessity.
Like in all forms of criminal defense, various factors must be satisfied for the necessity defense to be successful. The defendant must be able to prove that the harm that resulted from their illegal behavior was necessary to prevent more severe damage and that without the behavior in question more devastating effects would have occurred.   
Entrapment
One type of criminal defense that is often portrayed in novels and in movies is entrapment. When a criminal defense attorney employs this defense they are claiming that a Government agent was responsible for coercing the defendant and causing them to take part in illegal behavior that they would not normally take part in.
In order for the defense of entrapment to be successful the Government agent must not have only provided the offender with the opportunity to commit a crime, but they must have also have partaken in adequate methods of persuasion in order to convince the defendant to break the law. The entrapment defense is rarely utilized, and when it is, it is generally not successful.
It is very difficult to prove that entrapment has occurred. The defense of entrapment is also very risky for a variety of different reasons. Therefore, criminal defense attorneys often try to avoid utilizing the entrapment defense. 
Excessive Government Involvement
Excessive Government involvement may result in the misconduct of law enforcement officers. When the Government becomes extremely involved in large scale criminal investigations, Government officials may misuse their power and authority. In instances such as this, the police officers who are involved in a criminal investigation may take part is misconduct. 
Excessive Government involvement and the misconduct of Government officials may be unconstitutional because it may violate due process. When criminal defense attorneys utilize this defense they are not denying that their client took part in the crime of which they are being accused. Instead they are arguing that continuing the judicial process would not be fair because the conduct of the Government officials who were involved in the criminal investigation was outrageous and violate the due process of law. Like entrapment, there are many aspects of outrageous Government behavior that must be met in order for this defense to be effective.

Special Personal Defenses
There are many different criminal defenses that a defense attorney may employ in order to decrease their client’s criminal liability. The most common criminal defenses include insanity, intoxication, or duress. An individual who has committed a crime under these conditions cannot be held accountable for their actions due to extraneous circumstances. However, these defenses are not relevant to every crime or to every criminal.
It is common for a criminal defense attorney to develop a special personal defense that will help to decrease their client’s criminal liability, and therefore, diminish the severity of their conviction and sentence. Though some of these special defenses have been employed in numerous cases, they tend to be much less common than other forms of defenses. 
Defense attorneys may be required to develop a new and unique defense based on the life experiences of the defendant. Special personal defenses must be successful in convincing the jury that the defendant cannot be held legally accountable for their behavior because of the mentality and mind frame that they have developed due to environmental, social, or physiological circumstances.

Attorneys
An individual who is facing criminal charges should seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Without the assistance of a defense lawyer an individual who is facing criminal charges will be forced to represent themselves. Self-representation in criminal cases is not recommended and may be extremely detrimental to the future of the defendant. 
In the majority of cases, the defendant does not understand all of the necessary aspects of a criminal court case and will not have the ability to effectively convince a court of their innocence. Therefore, it is essential that an individual who is being accused of taking part in criminal activity locate a successful criminal defense attorney in their area. 
If an offender does not have the financial stability to enlist the assistance of a lawyer, they may qualify to be given a court-appointed attorney. However, this is also not always in the best interest of the defendant.

What to Know About Judicial Discretion

What to Know About Judicial Discretion

Under the United States Constitution, a criminal judge has the authority to execute judicial discretion over cases. The Constitution bestows many rights and responsibilities upon criminal judges. By allowing a judge to exercise judicial discretion, the Government is trusting an individual to use their knowledge, intellect, and experience to select proper courses of action and acceptable punishments for convicted criminals. Judicial discretion allows a criminal judge to analyze all aspects and factors related to a specific case in order to determine what type of sentence is warranted and what type of punishment will be most effective.
The Constitution forbids a judge from issuing a sentence that is considered to be exceptionally cruel or unusual. Though judicial discretion allows a judge to fit a sentence to each specific criminal, which may be beneficial, there is a great deal of debate about the use of discretion. Many would argue it is unfair that individuals who are responsible for committing the same crime are treated differently under the law.
Murder is murder no matter who the offender is, and many people argue that individuals who are responsible for taking the life of another person should all be treated the same. However, this is not the case. Some murderers receive the death penalty, some receive life sentences, and others receive life with and without possibility of parole. Likewise, some individuals who are responsible for multiple homicides are handed consecutive life sentences while others are given concurrent life sentences.
There are no strict guidelines that outline the use of these penalties and there are no set rules that govern what murderers will receive life without parole and which ones will receive concurrent life sentences. It is all based on judicial discretion and judge leniency. In recent years, sentencing guidelines have been adopted and minimum sentencing laws have been instituted that put a limit on the amount of discretion that a judge can use when determining a reasonable sentence. In many ways this is beneficial because it helps to stop the use of extremely harsh and severe punishments.
However, it often is detrimental because minimum sentencing laws do not provide a criminal judge with the ability to modify sentences to fit the offender. Therefore, an offender may receive a much more severe punishment than is necessary for their case

Possibility of Parole with a Life Sentence

Possibility of Parole with a Life Sentence

When a criminal is given a life sentence, people generally believe that the convict will spend the rest of their lives behind bars as a result of the criminal activity in which they have participated. However, this is not always the case. In some instances, a criminal will be sentenced to an "indeterminate life sentence."
 
 
Often, the court will announce that a convict must serve "15 years to life." This means that the prisoner will be eligible for parole once they have served fifteen years of their sentence. 

Major Aspects of Property Offenses You Should Know

Major Aspects of Property Offenses You Should Know

Every year, millions of criminal cases involve individuals who have committed property offenses. Unlike personal offenses, property offenses occur when an individual commits an offense against another person’s property. Property offenses may include damage to another individual’s property or belongings. Such offenses may also involve taking objects or items that belong to another individual without obtaining that person’s permission. 
Many people believe that this type of criminal behavior is not as harmful and detrimental as physical offenses. However, property offenses cause a great deal of damage. Often, crimes that begin as property offense escalate and turn into physical offenses. If innocent individuals are present while these crimes are taking place they may sustain extensive physical injury and they may even be killed. Therefore, offenses against property are considered to be extremely serious crimes and they are punished accordingly.
Many criminal cases involve an offender who has taken objects or property that does not belong to him or her. When an individual shoplifts from a store, he or she is taking part in theft. An individual who steals money or objects from a family member or a friend is also taking part in this criminal activity. 
An offender may attempt to take money or personal property by employing the use of violence or force. In cases of these types of property offenses, the perpetrator may not actually use violence, but may threaten force in order to scare the victim into surrendering money or objects. 
In many instances, deadly weapons are utilized during robbery in order to cause fear and submission. Because of the threat that is posed by these dangerous weapons, these property offenses are usually punished more severely then shoplifting, petty theft or burglary. In criminal cases, burglary is one of the common types of property offenses. An individual is responsible for burglary when he or she breaks into a building that is not his or her own. 
The punishment for burglary will vary depending on the building that the offender broke into, as well as the intentions that he or she had for entering the building. In most criminal cases, a perpetrator who breaks into another individual’s home will experience greater penalties then an offender who breaks into an office building. This is especially true if individuals are in the house at the time that the offender broke into their home. 
There are various different property offenses that result in the damage of another individual’s property. In criminal cases, arson is a property crime that generally results in some of the most extensive consequences and punishments. Arson occurs when an offender knowingly sets fire to a building. In many criminal cases, arson accompanies other serious criminal activities. It is often used as a threat or a way to intimidate an enemy. 
In some instances, a perpetrator will use arson as a way to murder an individual and attempt to eliminate him or herself as a suspect. in situations such as this, the perpetrator will often hope that the fire will be deemed electrical so that his or her criminal activities are not discovered. Arson is also often used as a means of committing insurance fraud, and is responsible for billions of dollars worth of damage every year. Individuals who are responsible for arson may face many years in prison as a result of their actions.

The Equal Protection Clause and Punishment

The Equal Protection Clause and Punishment

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution has proven to be essential and invaluable in the Civil Rights Movement. The Amendment, perhaps best known for the Equal Protection Clause, states that all individuals must be treated equally under the law. It forbids State-run institutions from discriminating based on sex, race, ethnicity, class, or sexual orientation. Therefore, the application of the law by the Government must be equal for all individuals.
 
 
Due to the Equal Protection Clause, a Government or a court cannot favor an individual, a race, or a socioeconomic class. Courts must treat all people the same and must provide all individuals with equal protection. Equal Protection laws often become a point of argument because of the existence of disproportional punishments.

Understanding the Purpose of Punishment

Understanding the Purpose of Punishment

Various aspects of criminal punishment are often at the center of intense debate. The fairness and the righteousness of criminal punishment is often called into question. Many individuals disagree about the purposes of criminal sentencing. While some people believe that convicted criminals should be handed a criminal sentence in order to be punished for their actions, others believe that criminal punishment should only be utilized to keep society safe.
There are many different reasons that have been cited for imposing punishment upon a convict. People often exhibit concern about the possibility of prejudice and discrimination within the criminal justice system. Individuals who question criminal punishment specify numerous different judicial practices that do not guard against discrimination, and in fact, may breed discrimination within criminal cases. As the existence of discrimination within legal proceedings is unconstitutional, these problems must be addressed.
Conflicting Purposes
There are many different reasons that criminals are sentenced to carry out designated punishments. Each of these reasons varies a great deal in purpose and the goal of the punishment. While some purposes of punishment are aimed at benefiting society, others are just aimed at exacting revenge upon an individual who is responsible for harm and destruction. Some criminal punishments are imposed with good intentions and hope for the convict’s future. Other penalties are exacted with cruel or malignant intentions. 
In many instances, the purpose of criminal punishments conflict with each other. This conflict and instability is often at the core of the debate surrounding disproportional punishment and it also allows room for Equal Protection rights to be violated. Different goals require different types of punishments and different levels of severity. This causes a great deal of controversy and argument about the inconstant nature of criminal sentencing and punishments.
Punishment and Equal Protection
Many people in the United States like to believe that all individuals are treated equally and fairly under the law. The Constitution of the United States outlaws the discrimination of any individual by a law officer or judicial official for any reason. However, the arbitrary nature of the judicial system is often the subject of intense debate.
Criminal punishments often seem to vary a great deal from one convicted criminal to another, even if the crimes that both individuals committed were the same. This raises the question of how judges decide upon acceptable punishments for individuals who have violated the law. 
While one individual may be sentenced to a very light punishment, another offender may receive a very severe punishment. Because there are no set punishments for taking part in certain criminal activities, judges have the ability to decide on a punishment for a convicted criminal. Many individuals feel that this leaves too much room for the potential of discrimination.

Compensation
Criminals cost the Government and taxpayers a great deal of time, money, and resources. Financial funds must be provided in order to supply manpower and essential equipment for the apprehension, incarceration, and punishment of individuals who are responsible for violating the law. Court fees and the maintenance of correctional facilities place a great financial burden on states and individuals within the community. Therefore, it is only fair that criminals be required to help pay back the debt that they have caused.
Punishments and penalties have been developed that focus on compensation. During his or her sentence, the criminal may be required to repay his or her debt to society through physical labor and restitution. The tasks that a convicted criminal will be required to take part in may vary a great deal from case to case and from one offender to another. Compensation is only one of the common and important purposes of criminal punishment.

Judicial Discretion 


Background
The Constitution of the United States bestows a great deal of power and responsibility upon a criminal judge. Every case and every defendant is different than the previous case. Each defendant is unique in his or her life history, experiences, beliefs, and morals. A traumatic event that an individual experienced in his or her past may make him or her more likely to take part in certain criminal activities. 
The crime may be a one time, isolated event which the defendant may express a great deal of remorse about having committed. This is very different from a repeat offender who lacks the moral scruples to effectively live in a community in which he or she can become a productive and successful member of society. 
Therefore, many people believe that it is illogical to subject every criminal to the same punishment, even if the crimes that were committed were the same. A criminal judge has the ability to exercise discretion over criminal cases to determine what punishment is warranted.
 
Disproportional Punishments
The United States Constitution gives judges the ability to use their experience, knowledge, and reason to determine the proper course of actions in criminal cases. However, the Constitution also forbids judges from sentencing individuals to penalties that would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
 
It is easy for a judge to abuse the authority and the power that he or she is given. Judges must preside over cases in which the defendant has committed extremely atrocious crimes, such as assault or sexual battery. The judge may feel that the defendant deserves to spend the rest of his or her life in prison for the crimes that he or she has committed. 
However, the judge must be able to disregard his or her personal opinion of a convict when he or she is exercising judicial discretion. Any sentence must be made under the law and must follow legal precedence. New legislation and guidelines limit the amount of discretion that a judge may employ.

Can Actus Reus Occur in Involuntary Actions?

Can Actus Reus Occur in Involuntary Actions?

One of the most important aspects of actus reus is that the criminal actions that occurred were voluntary. Under criminal laws an individual cannot be convicted of a crime if the illegal behavior was committed involuntarily. If the criminal activities that took place were involuntary, then actus reus did not occur.
Criminal laws recognize actus reus as one of the primary and essential elements of a crime that are necessary to impose criminal liability upon an offender. Without actus reus, a crime was not committed, and therefore, the individual who was responsible for the behavior that is in question cannot be punished for any harm that resulted.
Many people question how criminal activity can be involuntary. When an individual takes part in actions or behaviors, he or she is choosing to do so. However, there are some instances in which an individual may take part in activities over which he or she had no control. Though these occurrences are rare, they do occur. Criminal laws and legal precedents have been established to acknowledge the lack of criminal intent and liability in these cases.
Criminal laws recognize that in rare cases an individual may take part in harmful and detrimental activities without any intent or knowledge of the damage that he or she is causing.

Types of Crimes that Warrant Life Imprisonment

Types of Crimes that Warrant Life Imprisonment

Life sentences are extremely severe penalties and are reserved for individuals who are responsible for the most heinous crimes. A life sentence will not be imposed lightly and it is usually reserved for offenders who are responsible for inflicting a great deal of harm or for perpetrators who are considered to be dangerous.
Many people argue that life sentences should be the penalty in capital cases instead of the death penalty. Numerous states agree with this ideology and have abolished the death penalty in favor of life sentences. Life sentences are utilized in order to inflict punishment upon a criminal and to keep the public safe from the threat that is posed by the convict.
A life sentence may be determined to be the appropriate penalty for a number of different crimes. These crimes are usually violent in nature, but in some cases non-violent crimes are punished by a sentence of life in prison.
Life sentences are generally reserved for individuals who are responsible for particularly harmful and severe criminal activity. Convicts who have been charged with the murder of another individual are commonly sentenced to life in prison. This may be the case for individuals who have taken part in aggravated murder or felony murder. 
Aggravated murder occurs when the perpetrator carefully plots and plans their crime before the murder occurs. The offender not only possesses the intent to kill their victim, but the murder does not occur in the heat of an argument. The perpetrator had the time to consider all of the aspects of their crime, and despite the opportunity they had to contemplate the realities of the crime, the results of their behavior, and the consequences they would face as a result of their actions, the offender chose to commit a capital offense.
Many would argue that individuals who are deprived of the moral substance and discernment to recognize right from wrong are a danger to society and should receive a life sentence. In the case of felony murder, an offender kills another individual while in the process of carrying out a felony crime. 
This often occurs in instances of aggravated robbery. The perpetrator may not intend to kill anyone before the criminal activity occurs. However, once the felony occurs, the offender may find themselves to be exceptionally brutal to their victims. They may be carrying a deadly weapon and in the course of the felony they may fire their weapon, severely wounding or killing a bystander. The offender will be charged with murder and will most likely receive a life sentence if they are not sentenced to capital punishment.
Sexual battery and rape are crimes that are punishable by life in prison in numerous states. High treason, especially during war time is often considered to be a crime that is punishable be a life sentence. If an individual is responsible for subjecting another person to extreme violence or brutality during kidnapping, human trafficking, or drug trafficking, they may be sentenced to life imprisonment. Often, drug lords and gang leaders are required to serve a life sentence.
Repeat criminals often have a life sentence imposed upon them. This is especially true if they are responsible for violent crimes. Offenders who take part in multiple instances of pedophilia or sexual assault may receive a life sentence

The Separate Jurisdictions of State Law

The Separate Jurisdictions of State LawEach State is responsible for establishing and maintaining State laws. The Federal Government has little or no power over the laws that each State chooses to establish. Every State is responsible for the safety and the security of the people that live within its borders, and they are obligated to create State laws that will help to ensure this safety.