What is a Crime?

A "crime" is any act or omission (of an act) in violation of a public law forbidding or commanding it. Most crimes in the United States are established by local, state, and federal governments. Criminal laws vary significantly from state to state.

Criminal law involves prosecution by the government of a person for an act that has been classified as a crime. Civil cases, on the other hand, involve individuals and organizations seeking to resolve legal disputes, usually over money.

In a criminal case, the state, through a prosecutor, initiates the suit. Even if the complaining person decides he or she doesn't wish to press charges any more, the state can, and usually does, continue to press forward. This is because the State is charged with protecting all of the people, not just the complaining witness.

In a civil case the victim brings the suit. Persons convicted of a crime may be jailed, fined, or both. But persons found liable in a civil case may only have to give up property or pay money.

Crimes include both felonies (more serious offenses — like murder or rape) and misdemeanors (less serious offenses — like petty theft or simple assault). Felonies are crimes punishable by imprisonment of a year in county jail or a term in state prison. Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to a year in county jail only.

All laws describing criminal behavior can be broken down into their elements. Prosecutors have to prove each and every element of the crime to obtain a conviction. As an example, to prove a burglary of a home, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant entered the home
  2. of another
  3. without permission
  4. with the intent to steal or commit a felony inside

Remember that the prosecutor must persuade the jury or judge "beyond a reasonable doubt" of every fact necessary to constitute the crime charged. In civil cases, the plaintiff needs to show a defendant is "liable" only by a "preponderance of the evidence," or more than 50%.

I believe the Constitution matters most when it serves the individual against the awesome power of the State. A good lawyer is the only protection between you and the Police, the Court, and the the District Attorney. I will defend anyone accused of wrongdoing, regardless of the charge. Call me at (949) 474-8008 or contact me online to discuss your matter confidentially 24 hours a day.