Criminal law

Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It proscribes conduct perceived as threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people inclusive of one's self. Most criminal law is established by statute, which is to say that the laws are enacted by a legislature. Criminal law includes the punishment and rehabilitation of people who violate such laws. Criminal law varies according to jurisdiction, and differs from civil law, where emphasis is more on dispute resolution and victim compensation, rather than on punishment or rehabilitation. Criminal procedure is a formalized official activity that authenticates the fact of commission of a crime and authorizes punitive or rehabilitative treatment of the offender.

History

The first civilizations generally did not distinguish between civil law and criminal law. The first written codes of law were designed by the Sumerians. Around 2100–2050 BC Ur-Nammu, the Neo-Sumerian king of Ur, enacted the oldest written legal code whose text has been discovered: the Code of Ur-Nammu[1] although an earlier code of Urukagina of Lagash ( 2380–2360 BC ) is also known to have existed. Another important early code was the Code of Hammurabi, which formed the core of Babylonian law.[2] Only fragments of the early criminal laws of Ancient Greece have survived, e.g. those of Solon and Draco.[3]

Old Bailey Microcosm edited
The Old Bailey in London (in 1808) was the venue for more than 100,000 criminal trials between 1674 and 1834, including all death penalty cases.

In Roman law, Gaius's Commentaries on the Twelve Tables also conflated the civil and criminal aspects, treating theft (furtum) as a tort. Assault and violent robbery were analogized to trespass as to property. Breach of such laws created an obligation of law or vinculum juris discharged by payment of monetary compensation or damages. The criminal law of imperial Rome is collected in Books 47–48 of the Digest.[4] After the revival of Roman law in the 12th century, sixth-century Roman classifications and jurisprudence provided the foundations of the distinction between criminal and civil law in European law from then until the present time.[5]

The first signs of the modern distinction between crimes and civil matters emerged during the Norman Invasion of England.[6] The special notion of criminal penalty, at least concerning Europe, arose in Spanish Late Scholasticism (see Alfonso de Castro), when the theological notion of God's penalty (poena aeterna) that was inflicted solely for a guilty mind, became transfused into canon law first and, finally, to secular criminal law.[7] The development of the state dispensing justice in a court clearly emerged in the eighteenth century when European countries began maintaining police services. From this point, criminal law formalized the mechanisms for enforcement, which allowed for its development as a discernible entity.

Objectives of criminal law

Criminal law is distinctive for the uniquely serious, potential consequences or sanctions for failure to abide by its rules.[8] Every crime is composed of criminal elements. Capital punishment may be imposed in some jurisdictions for the most serious crimes. Physical or corporal punishment may be imposed such as whipping or caning, although these punishments are prohibited in much of the world. Individuals may be incarcerated in prison or jail in a variety of conditions depending on the jurisdiction. Confinement may be solitary. Length of incarceration may vary from a day to life. Government supervision may be imposed, including house arrest, and convicts may be required to conform to particularized guidelines as part of a parole or probation regimen. Fines also may be imposed, seizing money or property from a person convicted of a crime.

Five objectives are widely accepted for enforcement of the criminal law by punishments: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and restoration. Jurisdictions differ on the value to be placed on each.

  • Retribution – Criminals ought to Be Punished in some way. This is the most widely seen goal. Criminals have taken improper advantage, or inflicted unfair detriment, upon others and consequently, the criminal law will put criminals at some unpleasant disadvantage to "balance the scales." People submit to the law to receive the right not to be murdered and if people contravene these laws, they surrender the rights granted to them by the law. Thus, one who murders may be executed himself. A related theory includes the idea of "righting the balance."
  • DeterrenceIndividual deterrence is aimed toward the specific offender. The aim is to impose a sufficient penalty to discourage the offender from criminal behavior. General deterrence aims at society at large. By imposing a penalty on those who commit offenses, other individuals are discouraged from committing those offenses.
  • Incapacitation – Designed simply to keep criminals away from society so that the public is protected from their misconduct. This is often achieved through prison sentences today. The death penalty or banishment have served the same purpose.
  • Rehabilitation – Aims at transforming an offender into a valuable member of society. Its primary goal is to prevent further offense by convincing the offender that their conduct was wrong.
  • Restoration – This is a victim-oriented theory of punishment. The goal is to repair, through state authority, any injury inflicted upon the victim by the offender. For example, one who embezzles will be required to repay the amount improperly acquired. Restoration is commonly combined with other main goals of criminal justice and is closely related to concepts in the civil law, i.e., returning the victim to his or her original position before the injury.

Selected criminal laws

Many laws are enforced by threat of criminal punishment, and the range of the punishment varies with the jurisdiction. The scope of criminal law is too vast to catalog intelligently. Nevertheless, the following are some of the more typical aspects of criminal law.

Elements

The criminal law generally prohibits undesirable acts. Thus, proof of a crime requires proof of some act. Scholars label this the requirement of an actus reus or guilty act. Some crimes – particularly modern regulatory offenses – require no more, and they are known as strict liability offenses (E.g. Under the Road traffic Act 1988 it is a strict liability offence to drive a vehicle with an alcohol concentration above the prescribed limit). Nevertheless, because of the potentially severe consequences of criminal conviction, judges at common law also sought proof of an intent to do some bad thing, the mens rea or guilty mind. As to crimes of which both actus reus and mens rea are requirements, judges have concluded that the elements must be present at precisely the same moment and it is not enough that they occurred sequentially at different times.[9]

Actus reus

LCJ-Court-1886
An English court room in 1886, with Lord Chief Justice Coleridge presiding

Actus reus is Latin for "guilty act" and is the physical element of committing a crime. It may be accomplished by an action, by threat of action, or exceptionally, by an omission to act, which is a legal duty to act. For example, the act of A striking B might suffice, or a parent's failure to give food to a young child also may provide the actus reus for a crime.

Where the actus reus is a failure to act, there must be a duty of care. A duty can arise through contract,[10] a voluntary undertaking,[11] a blood relation with whom one lives,[12] and occasionally through one's official position.[13] Duty also can arise from one's own creation of a dangerous situation.[14] On the other hand, it was held in the U.K. that switching off the life support of someone in a persistent vegetative state is an omission to act and not criminal. Since discontinuation of power is not a voluntary act, not grossly negligent, and is in the patient's best interests, no crime takes place.[15] In this case it was held that since a PVS patient could not give or withhold consent to medical treatment, it was for the doctors to decide whether treatment was in the patient's best interest. It was reasonable for them to conclude that treatment was not in the patient's best interest, and should therefore be stopped, when there was no prospect of improvement. It was never lawful to take active steps to cause or accelerate death, although in certain circumstances it was lawful to withhold life sustaining treatment, including feeding, without which the patient would die.

An actus reus may be nullified by an absence of causation. For example, a crime involves harm to a person, the person's action must be the but for cause and proximate cause of the harm.[16] If more than one cause exists (e.g. harm comes at the hands of more than one culprit) the act must have "more than a slight or trifling link" to the harm.[17]

Causation is not broken simply because a victim is particularly vulnerable. This is known as the thin skull rule.[18] However, it may be broken by an intervening act (novus actus interveniens) of a third party, the victim's own conduct,[19] or another unpredictable event. A mistake in medical treatment typically will not sever the chain, unless the mistakes are in themselves "so potent in causing death."[20]

Mens rea

Mens rea is another Latin phrase, meaning "guilty mind". This is the mental element of the crime. A guilty mind means an intention to commit some wrongful act. Intention under criminal law is separate from a person's motive[21] (although motive does not exist in Scots law).[22]

A lower threshold of mens rea is satisfied when a defendant recognizes an act is dangerous but decides to commit it anyway. This is recklessness. It is the mental state of mind of the person at the time the actus reus was committed. For instance, if C tears a gas meter from a wall to get the money inside, and knows this will let flammable gas escape into a neighbour's house, he could be liable for poisoning.[23] Courts often consider whether the actor did recognize the danger, or alternatively ought to have recognized a risk.[24] Of course, a requirement only that one ought to have recognized a danger (though he did not) is tantamount to erasing intent as a requirement. In this way, the importance of mens rea has been reduced in some areas of the criminal law but is obviously still an important part in the criminal system.

Wrongfulness of intent also may vary the seriousness of an offense and possibly reduce the punishment but this is not always the case. A killing committed with specific intent to kill or with conscious recognition that death or serious bodily harm will result, would be murder, whereas a killing effected by reckless acts lacking such a consciousness could be manslaughter.[25] On the other hand, it matters not who is actually harmed through a defendant's actions. The doctrine of transferred malice means, for instance, that if a man intends to strike a person with his belt, but the belt bounces off and hits another, mens rea is transferred from the intended target to the person who actually was struck.[Note: The notion of transferred intent does not exist within Scots' Law. In Scotland, one would not be charged with assault due to transferred intent, but instead assault due to recklessness.][26]

Strict liability

Strict liability can be described as criminal or civil liability notwithstanding the lack of mens rea or intent by the defendant. Not all crimes require specific intent, and the threshold of culpability required may be reduced or demoted. For example, it might be sufficient to show that a defendant acted negligently, rather than intentionally or recklessly. In offenses of absolute liability, other than the prohibited act, it may not be necessary to show the act was intentional. Generally, crimes must include an intentional act, and "intent" is an element that must be proved in order to find a crime occurred. The idea of a "strict liability crime" is an oxymoron. The few exceptions are not truly crimes at all – but are administrative regulations and civil penalties created by statute, such as crimes against the traffic or highway code.

Fatal offenses

A murder, defined broadly, is an unlawful killing. Unlawful killing is probably the act most frequently targeted by the criminal law. In many jurisdictions, the crime of murder is divided into various gradations of severity, e.g., murder in the first degree, based on intent. Malice is a required element of murder. Manslaughter (Culpable Homicide in Scotland) is a lesser variety of killing committed in the absence of malice, brought about by reasonable provocation, or diminished capacity. Involuntary manslaughter, where it is recognized, is a killing that lacks all but the most attenuated guilty intent, recklessness.

Settled insanity is a possible defense.

Personal offenses

Many criminal codes protect the physical integrity of the body. The crime of battery is traditionally understood as an unlawful touching, although this does not include everyday knocks and jolts to which people silently consent as the result of presence in a crowd. Creating a fear of imminent battery is an assault, and also may give rise to criminal liability. Non-consensual intercourse, or rape, is a particularly egregious form of battery.

Property offenses

Property often is protected by the criminal law. Trespassing is unlawful entry onto the real property of another. Many criminal codes provide penalties for conversion, embezzlement, theft, all of which involve deprivations of the value of the property. Robbery is a theft by force. Fraud in the UK is a breach of the Fraud Act 2006 by false representation, by failure to disclose information or by abuse of position.

Participatory offenses

Some criminal codes criminalize association with a criminal venture or involvement in criminality that does not actually come to fruition. Some examples are aiding, abetting, conspiracy, and attempt. However, in Scotland, the English concept of Aiding and Abetting is known as Art and Part Liability. See Glanville Williams, Textbook of Criminal Law, (London: Stevens & Sons, 1983); Glanville Williams, Criminal Law the General Part (London: Stevens & Sons, 1961).

Mala in se v. mala prohibita

While crimes are typically broken into degrees or classes to punish appropriately, all offenses can be divided into 'mala in se' and 'mala prohibita' laws. Both are Latin legal terms, mala in se meaning crimes that are thought to be inherently evil or morally wrong, and thus will be widely regarded as crimes regardless of jurisdiction. Mala in se offenses are felonies, property crimes, immoral acts and corrupt acts by public officials. Mala prohibita, on the other hand, refers to offenses that do not have wrongfulness associated with them. Parking in a restricted area, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, jaywalking or unlicensed fishing are examples of acts that are prohibited by statute, but without which are not considered wrong. Mala prohibita statutes are usually imposed strictly, as there does not need to be mens rea component for punishment under those offenses, just the act itself. For this reason, it can be argued that offenses that are mala prohibita are not really crimes at all.[27]

Defenses

Criminal law jurisdictions

Public international law deals extensively and increasingly with criminal conduct that is heinous and ghastly enough to affect entire societies and regions. The formative source of modern international criminal law was the Nuremberg trials following the Second World War in which the leaders of Nazism were prosecuted for their part in genocide and atrocities across Europe. The Nuremberg trials marked the beginning of criminal fault for individuals, where individuals acting on behalf of a government can be tried for violations of international law without the benefit of sovereign immunity. In 1998 an International criminal court was established in the Rome Statute.[28]

See also

International criminal law

National criminal law

References

Citations

  1. ^ Kramer, Samuel Noah. (1971) The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character, p.4, University of Chicago ISBN 0-226-45238-7
  2. ^ Harper, Robert Francis (1999). The Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon: About 2250 B.C. : Autographed Text, Transliteration, Translation, Glossary Index of Subjects, Lists of Proper Names, Signs, Numuerals ... The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. ISBN 9781584770039.
  3. ^ Albrecht, James F. "Law and Order in Ancient Civilizations". St. John's University (NYC). Archived from the original on July 31, 2009. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  4. ^ Criminal Law. Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition.
  5. ^ "Law, Criminal Procedure," Dictionary of the Middle Ages: Supplement 1, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons-Thompson-Gale, 2004: 309–320
  6. ^ see, Pennington, Kenneth (1993) The Prince and the Law, 1200–1600: Sovereignty and Rights in the Western Legal Tradition, University of California Press
  7. ^ Harald Maihold, Strafe für fremde Schuld? Die Systematisierung des Strafbegriffs in der Spanischen Spätscholastik und Naturrechtslehre, Köln u.a. 2005
  8. ^ Dennis J. Baker (2011). "The Right Not to be Criminalized: Demarcating Criminal Law's Authority". Ashgate.
  9. ^ This is demonstrated by R v. Church [1966] 1 QB 59. Mr. Church had a fight with a woman which rendered her unconscious. He attempted to revive her, but gave up, believing her to be dead. He threw her, still alive, in a nearby river, where she drowned. The court held that Mr. Church was not guilty of murder (because he did not ever desire to kill her), but was guilty of manslaughter. The "chain of events," his act of throwing her into the water and his desire to hit her, coincided. In this manner, it does not matter when a guilty mind and act coincide, as long as at some point they do. See also, Fagan v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner [1968] 3 All ER 442, where angry Mr Fagan would not take his car off a policeman's foot
  10. ^ R v. Pittwood (1902) 19 TLR 37 – a railway worker who omitted to shut the crossing gates, convicted of manslaughter when someone was run over by a train
  11. ^ e.g. the partner in Gibbons who was not a blood parent, but had assumed a duty of care
  12. ^ R v. Stone and Dobinson [1977] QB 354, where an ill tended sister named Fanny could not leave bed, was not cared for at all and literally rotted in her own filth. This is gross negligence manslaughter.
  13. ^ R v. Dytham [1979] QB 722, where a policeman on duty stood and watched three men kick another to death.
  14. ^ R v. Miller [1983] 1 All ER 978, a squatter flicked away a still lit cigarette, which landed on a mattress. He failed to take action, and after the building had burned down, he was convicted of arson. He failed to correct the dangerous situation he created, as he was duty bound to do. See also, R v. Santana-Bermudez (2003) where a thug with a needle failed to tell a policewoman searching his pockets that he had one.
  15. ^ Airedale NHS Trust v. Bland [1993] 1 All ER 821
  16. ^ e.g. R v. Pagett [1983] Crim LR 393, where 'but for' the defendant using his pregnant girlfriend for a human shield from police fire, she would not have died. Pagget's conduct foreseeably procured the heavy police response.
  17. ^ R v. Kimsey [1996] Crim LR 35, where 2 girls were racing their cars dangerously and crashed. One died, but the other was found slightly at fault for her death and convicted.
  18. ^ e.g. R v. Blaue [1975] where a Jehovah's witness (who refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds) was stabbed and without accepting life saving treatment died.
  19. ^ e.g. R v. Williams [1992] Crim LR 198 where a hitchhiker who jumped from a car and died, apparently because the driver tried to steal his wallet, was a "daft" intervening act. c.f. R v. Roberts [1972] Crim LR 27, where a girl getting drunk jumped from a speeding car to avoid sexual advances and was injured and R v. Majoram [2000] Crim LR 372 where thugs kicked in the victims door scared him to jumping from the window. These actions were foreseeable and therefore creating liability for injuries.
  20. ^ per Beldam LJ, R v. Cheshire [1991] 3 All ER 670; see also, R v. Jordan [1956] 40 Cr App R 152, where a stab victim recovering well in hospital was given an antibiotic. The victim was allergic, but he was given it the next day too, and died. The hospital's actions intervened and pardoned the defendant through condemning themselves instead.
  21. ^ R v. Mohan [1975] 2 All ER 193, intention defined as "a decision to bring about ... [the actus reus] no matter whether the accused desired that consequence of his act or not."
  22. ^ see https://archive.org/stream/cu31924024627675#page/n5/mode/2up
  23. ^ c.f. R v. Cunningham [1957] 2 All ER 863, where the defendant did not realise, and was not liable; also R v. G and Another [2003] UKHL 50
  24. ^ previously in the U.K. under Metropolitan Police Commissioner v. Caldwell [1981] 1 All ER 961
  25. ^ R v. Woolin [1998] 4 All ER 103
  26. ^ R v. Latimer (1886) 17 QBD 359; though for an entirely different offense, e.g. breaking a window, one cannot transfer malice, see R v. Pembliton (1874) LR 2 CCR 119
  27. ^ Perkins, Rollin M. (1982). Criminal Law, 3rd ed. The Foundation Press, Inc. pp. 15–17. ISBN 0-88277-067-5.
  28. ^ "ROME STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT". Retrieved 24 April 2015.

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External links

Amnesty

Amnesty (from the Greek ἀμνηστία amnestia, "forgetfulness, passing over") is defined as: "A pardon extended by the government to a group or class of people, usually for a political offense; the act of a sovereign power officially forgiving certain classes of people who are subject to trial but have not yet been convicted."

It includes more than pardon, inasmuch as it obliterates all legal remembrance of the offense. Amnesty is more and more used to express "freedom" and the time when prisoners can go free.

Amnesties, which in the United Kingdom may be granted by the crown or by an act of Parliament, were formerly usual on coronations and similar occasions, but are chiefly exercised towards associations of political criminals, and are sometimes granted absolutely, though more frequently there are certain specified exceptions. Thus, in the case of the earliest recorded amnesty, that of Thrasybulus at Athens, the thirty tyrants and a few others were expressly excluded from its operation; and the amnesty proclaimed on the restoration of Charles II of England did not extend to those who had taken part in the execution of his father. Other famous amnesties include: Napoleon's amnesty of March 13, 1815, from which thirteen eminent persons, including Talleyrand, were exempt; the Prussian amnesty of August 10, 1840; the general amnesty proclaimed by the emperor Franz Josef I of Austria in 1857; the general amnesty granted by President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, after the American Civil War (April 12, 1861, to April 9, 1865), in 1868, and the French amnesty of 1905. Amnesty in U.S. politics in 1872 meant restoring the right to vote and hold office to ex-Confederates, which was achieved by act of Congress. Those were true amnesties, pardoning past violations without changing the laws violated.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986—signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986—granted amnesty to about 3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Arraignment

Arraignment is a formal reading of a criminal charging document in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against the defendant. In response to arraignment, the accused is expected to enter a plea. Acceptable pleas vary among jurisdictions, but they generally include "guilty", "not guilty", and the peremptory pleas (or pleas in bar) setting out reasons why a trial cannot proceed. Pleas of "nolo contendere" (no contest) and the "Alford plea" are allowed in some circumstances.

Conviction

In law, a conviction is the verdict that usually results when a court of law finds a defendant guilty of a crime. The opposite of a conviction is an acquittal (that is, "not guilty"). In Scotland and in the Netherlands, there can also be a verdict of "not proven", which counts as an acquittal. There are also cases in which the court orders that a defendant not be convicted, despite being found guilty; in England, Wales, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand the mechanism for this is a discharge.

For a host of reasons, the criminal justice system is not perfect: sometimes guilty defendants are acquitted, while innocent people are convicted. Appeal mechanisms and post conviction relief procedures may mitigate the effects of a conviction to some extent. An error which results in the conviction of an innocent person is known as a miscarriage of justice.

After a defendant is convicted, the court determines the appropriate sentence as a punishment. Furthermore, the conviction may lead to results beyond the terms of the sentence itself. Such ramifications are known as the collateral consequences of criminal charges.

A minor conviction is a warning conviction, and it does not affect the defendant but does serve as a warning.A history of convictions are called antecedents, known colloquially as "previous" in the United Kingdom, and "priors" in the United States and Australia. The history of convictions also shows that a minor law conviction can be prosecuted as any individual's punishment.

Crime

In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term "crime" does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition, though statutory definitions have been provided for certain purposes. The most popular view is that crime is a category created by law; in other words, something is a crime if declared as such by the relevant and applicable law. One proposed definition is that a crime or offence (or criminal offence) is an act harmful not only to some individual but also to a community, society, or the state ("a public wrong"). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law.The notion that acts such as murder, rape, and theft are to be prohibited exists worldwide. What precisely is a criminal offence is defined by criminal law of each country. While many have a catalogue of crimes called the criminal code, in some common law countries no such comprehensive statute exists.

The state (government) has the power to severely restrict one's liberty for committing a crime. In modern societies, there are procedures to which investigations and trials must adhere. If found guilty, an offender may be sentenced to a form of reparation such as a community sentence, or, depending on the nature of their offence, to undergo imprisonment, life imprisonment or, in some jurisdictions, execution.

Usually, to be classified as a crime, the "act of doing something criminal" (actus reus) must – with certain exceptions – be accompanied by the "intention to do something criminal" (mens rea).While every crime violates the law, not every violation of the law counts as a crime. Breaches of private law (torts and breaches of contract) are not automatically punished by the state, but can be enforced through civil procedure.

Criminal Code (Canada)

The Criminal Code (French: Code criminel) is a law that codifies most criminal offences and procedures in Canada. Its official long title is "An Act respecting the criminal law" (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, as amended). Section 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867 establishes the sole jurisdiction of Parliament over criminal law in Canada.

The Criminal Code contains some defences, but most are part of the common law rather than statute. Important Canadian criminal laws not forming part of the code include the Firearms Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Food and Drugs Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Contraventions Act.

One of the conveniences of the Criminal Code was that it constituted the principle that no person would be able to be convicted of a crime unless otherwise specifically outlined and stated in a statute. This legal document has played a major part in Canada's history and has also helped form other legal acts and laws, for example, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (Nirbhaya Act) is an Indian legislation passed by the Lok Sabha on 19 March 2013, and by the Rajya Sabha on 21 March 2013, which provides for amendment of Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on laws related to sexual offences. The Bill received Presidential assent on 2 April 2013 and came into force from 3 April 2013. It was originally an Ordinance promulgated by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, on 3 April 2013, in light of the protests in the 2012 Delhi gang rape case.

Criminal code

A criminal code (or penal code) is a document which compiles all, or a significant amount of, a particular jurisdiction's criminal law. Typically a criminal code will contain offences which are recognised in the jurisdiction, penalties which might be imposed for these offences and some general provisions (such as definitions and prohibitions on retroactive prosecution).Criminal codes are relatively common in civil law jurisdictions, which tend to build legal systems around codes and principles which are relatively abstract and apply them on a case by case basis. Conversely they are not as common in common law jurisdictions.

The proposed introduction of a criminal code in England and Wales was a significant project of the Law Commission from 1968 to 2008. Due to the strong tradition of legal precedent in the jurisdiction and consequently the large number of binding legal judgements and ambiguous 'common law offences', as well as the often inconsistent nature of English law, the creation of a satisfactory code became very difficult. The project was officially abandoned in 2008 although as of 2009 it has been revived.A statutory Criminal Law Codification Advisory Committee for Irish criminal law met from 2007 to 2010 and its Draft Criminal Code and Commentary was published in 2011.In the United States, a Model Penal Code exists which is not itself law but which provides the basis for the criminal law of many states. Individual states often choose to make use of criminal codes which are often based, to a varying extent on the model code. Title 18 of the United States Code is the criminal code for federal crimes. However, Title 18 does not contain many of the general provisions concerning criminal law that are found in the criminal codes of many so-called "civil law" countries.

Criminal codes are generally supported for their introduction of consistency to legal systems and for making the criminal law more accessible to laypeople. A code may help avoid a chilling effect where legislation and case law appears to be either inaccessible or beyond comprehension to non-lawyers. Alternatively critics have argued that codes are too rigid and that they fail to provide enough flexibility for the law to be effective.

The term "penal code" (code pénal) derives from the French Penal Code of 1791.

Criminal procedure

Criminal procedure is the adjudication process of the criminal law. While criminal procedure differs dramatically by jurisdiction, the process generally begins with a formal criminal charge with the person on trial either being free on bail or incarcerated, and results in the conviction or acquittal of the defendant. Criminal procedure can be either in form of inquisitorial or adversarial criminal procedure.

Defendant

A defendant is a person accused of committing a crime in criminal prosecution or a person against whom some type of civil relief is being sought in a civil case.

Terminology varies from one jurisdiction to another. For example, Scots law does not use the term "defendant"; the terms "accused" or "panel" are used instead in criminal proceedings, and "defender" in civil proceedings.

Due diligence

Due diligence is the investigation or exercise of care that a reasonable business or person is expected to take before entering into an agreement or contract with another party, or an act with a certain standard of care.

It can be a legal obligation, but the term will more commonly apply to voluntary investigations. A common example of due diligence in various industries is the process through which a potential acquirer evaluates a target company or its assets for an acquisition. The theory behind due diligence holds that performing this type of investigation contributes significantly to informed decision making by enhancing the amount and quality of information available to decision makers and by ensuring that this information is systematically used to deliberate in a reflexive manner on the decision at hand and all its costs, benefits, and risks.

Felony

The term felony originated from English common law (from the French medieval word "félonie"), to describe an offense that resulted in the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods, to which additional punishments including capital punishment could be added. Other crimes were called misdemeanors. A felony is traditionally considered a crime of high seriousness, whereas a misdemeanor is regarded as less serious. A felon is a person who has committed a felony. Following conviction of a felony in a court of law, a person may be described as a convicted felon.

Some common law countries and jurisdictions no longer classify crimes as felonies or misdemeanors and instead use other distinctions, such as by classifying serious crimes as indictable offences and less serious crimes as summary offences.

In the United States, where the felony/misdemeanor distinction is still widely applied, the federal government defines a felony as a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year. If punishable by exactly one year or less, it is classified as a misdemeanor. The classification is based upon a crime's potential sentence, so a crime remains classified as a felony even if a defendant receives a sentence of less than a year of incarceration. Individual states may classify crimes by other factors, such as seriousness or context.

In some civil law, such as Italy and Spain, the term delict is used to describe serious offenses, a category similar to common law felony. In other nations, such as Germany, France, Belgium, and Switzerland, more serious offenses are described as crimes and misdemeanors or delicts (or délits) are less serious. In still others (such as Brazil and Portugal), crimes and delicts are synonymous (more serious) and are opposed to contraventions (less serious).

Indictment

An indictment ( in-DYT-mənt) is a criminal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that use the concept of felonies, the most serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that do not use the felonies concept often use that of an indictable offence, an offence that requires an indictment.

Intention (criminal law)

In criminal law, intent is a subjective state of mind that must accompany the acts of certain crimes to constitute a violation. A more formal, generally synonymous legal term is scienter: intent or knowledge of wrongdoing.

International criminal law

International criminal law is a body of public international law designed to prohibit certain categories of conduct commonly viewed as serious atrocities and to make perpetrators of such conduct criminally accountable for their perpetration. The core crimes under international law are genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. This article also discusses crimes against international law, which may not be part of the body of international criminal law.

"Classical" international law governs the relationships, rights, and responsibilities of states. Criminal law generally deals with prohibitions addressed to individuals, and penal sanctions for violation of those prohibition imposed by individual states. International criminal law comprises elements of both in that although its sources are those of international law, its consequences are penal sanctions imposed on individuals.

Islamic criminal jurisprudence

Islamic criminal law (Arabic: فقه العقوبات‎) is criminal law in accordance with Sharia. Strictly speaking, Islamic law does not have a distinct corpus of "criminal law." It divides crimes into three different categories depending on the offense – Hudud (crimes "against God", whose punishment is fixed in the Quran and the Hadiths); Qisas (crimes against an individual or family whose punishment is equal retaliation in the Quran and the Hadiths); and Tazir (crimes whose punishment is not specified in the Quran and the Hadiths, and is left to the discretion of the ruler or Qadi, i.e. judge). Some add the fourth category of Siyasah (crimes against government), while others consider it as part of either Hadd or Tazir crimes.Traditional sharia courts, unlike modern Western courts, do not use jury or prosecutors on the behalf of society. Crimes against God are prosecuted by the state as hudud crimes, and all other criminal matters, including murder and bodily injury, are treated as disputes between individuals with an Islamic judge deciding the outcome based on sharia fiqh such as Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali and Jafari followed in the Islamic jurisdiction.In practice, since early on in Islamic history, criminal cases were usually handled by ruler-administered courts or local police using procedures which were only loosely related to sharia. In the modern era, sharia-based criminal laws were widely replaced by statutes inspired by European models, although in recent decades several countries reintroduced elements of Islamic penal law into their legal codes under the growing influence of Islamist movements.

Larceny

Larceny is a crime involving the unlawful taking of the personal property of another person or business. It was an offence under the common law of England and became an offence in jurisdictions which incorporated the common law of England into their own law (also Statutory law), where in many cases it remains in force.

The crime of larceny has been abolished in England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland due to breaking up the generalised crime of larceny into the specific crimes of burglary, robbery, fraud, theft, and related crimes. However, larceny remains an offence in parts of the United States, Jersey, and in New South Wales, Australia, involving the taking (caption) and carrying away (asportation) of personal property.

Manslaughter

Manslaughter is a common law legal term for homicide considered by law as less culpable than murder. The distinction between murder and manslaughter is sometimes said to have first been made by the ancient Athenian lawmaker Draco in the 7th century BC.The definition of manslaughter differs among legal jurisdictions.

Mens rea

Mens rea (; Law Latin for "guilty mind") is the mental element of a person's intention to commit a crime; or knowledge that one's action or lack of action would cause a crime to be committed. It is a necessary element of many crimes.

The standard common law test of criminal liability is expressed in the Latin phrase actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, i.e. "the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty". In jurisdictions with due process, there must be both actus reus ("guilty act") and mens rea for a defendant to be guilty of a crime (see concurrence). As a general rule, someone who acted without mental fault is not liable in criminal law. Exceptions are known as strict liability crimes.

In civil law, it is usually not necessary to prove a subjective mental element to establish liability for breach of contract or tort, for example. But if a tort is intentionally committed or a contract is intentionally breached, such intent may increase the scope of liability and the damages payable to the plaintiff.

In some jurisdictions, the terms mens rea and actus reus have been replaced by alternative terminology.

Misdemeanor

A misdemeanor (American English, spelled misdemeanour in British English) is any "lesser" criminal act in some common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions (also known as minor, petty, or summary offences) and regulatory offences. Many misdemeanors are punished with monetary fines.

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