Basic Information About Criminal Law and Justice

Basic Information About Criminal Law and Justice

August 2, 2021 Off By Glespynorson

What is Criminal Law?

Within the legal system of the United States of America, citizens have the means to seek enforcement of their rights or redressal in cases of civil disputes. This usually involves two parties or individuals disputing their rights.

Criminal law is a system of laws concerned with the punishment of individuals who commit crimes. Under criminal law, the state or the federal government via the legal system seeks to obtain a guilty verdict and punish an individual for committing a crime, as law enforcement to protect the society.

The Roots

Criminal law and the American system of justice have historically evolved from the English Common law and are founded on the concept that crimes against an individual are crimes against the state. Over years of practice, it has gone through various additions and reformations to arrive at a set of laws at the state and the federal level that seeks to serve justice when a crime is committed.

The Concept of Criminal Justice

Criminal justice refers to laws, procedures, institutions involved before, during, and after the commission of a crime. It also refers to the deserved justice of the criminal community, right from the commission of a crime and its detection by the state to its punishment through every stage of the process that includes apprehension, detention, prosecution, adjudication, and rehabilitation of a criminal offender.

Branches of the System

There is no single criminal justice system in the United States as laws vary widely among states and the Federal system. There are 3 branches of the US criminal justice system – the police, the courts, and the correction systems.

The police are tasked with enforcing laws of the land and maintaining public order. The courts are concerned with administering justice and the correction systems including jails and prisons with the punishing offenders for crimes.

Core Objectives

In its essence, the concept of criminal justice is much broader than it is perceived or appears to be at the surface and involves various activities. The criminal justice system is based on the principle that criminal conduct should be prosecuted and punished by the state following a set of laws. However it does not just include enforcement of laws by police force and punishment of the offenders, it also concerns the reforms and rights of criminal offenders as well as victims.

An interesting fact about the criminal justice system is that it has multiple and conflicting objectives at its core which concern the rights of the parties involved in a crime (the offender and the victim) and its relation to the social system. Thus it has the responsibility of balancing the rights of the victims and the rights of the defendant and the broader public interest.

A Powerful System of Delivering Justice

America has a powerful system of criminal law that ensures numerous safeguards to protect the rights of an accused. In a prosecution trial, it is the burden of the state to prove the accused guilty. The accused is assumed innocent and it is the highest obligation of the state to prove them guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt to a moral certainty”. It is the highest burden imposed on any state in the world to meet before it can incarcerate or punish an accused.

Despite this, a majority of criminal prosecution cases in America result in a guilty verdict. However, as part of criminal justice, the defendant is given their due rights during the entire process, one of which is the right to a defense lawyer or a free legal counsel arranged by the state, to defend their rights and fight on their behalf. You can in fact find the best criminal defense attorney in Maryland.

What is a Crime?

Crime is a behavior, by act or by omission, defined by statutory or common law as deserving of punishment. Which conduct is called a crime and is criminalized differs from state to state. Criminal laws also vary among states and the federal government.

Generally, crimes are classified into four categories – felonies, misdemeanors, inchoate offenses, and strict liability offenses.

Steps in a Criminal Process in the Federal System of the Us

Investigation/ Arrest

The first step in a criminal process, this step involves one or more agencies investigating the crime and obtaining evidence. A search may be conducted, and depending on the particulars of a case, an arrest may also be made.


A formal notice or indictment is issued to the person charged, informing them of the charges against them.

Initial Hearing

After the defendant has been arrested or charged, they are brought for an initial hearing before a magistrate. This is usually where the arrangement for an attorney may be made for the defendant by the government. A defendant is also asked to plead guilty or not guilty and go to trial under a plea arrangement.


Before a trial takes place, preparations for the trial are made. Exchange of facts and evidence, talking to witnesses, and studying the case for a trial strategy take place at this stage by the prosecutor.

Preliminary Hearing

Post discovery, if Defendant has not pleaded guilty, a preliminary hearing takes place. Before trial, the prosecution can call witnesses and evidence in a preliminary hearing. At this stage, if the judge agrees that the evidence collected does not prove any probable cause that the defendant committed an offense, they can dismiss the charges. If the judge concludes that there is probable cause to believe that the crime or offense was committed by the defendant, a trial is scheduled.


Evidence is presented before a judge or jury during a trial to determine whether the accused is guilty as charged or not. The accused is presumed innocent, and the prosecution has to prove the case by establishing evidence.

If you have been accused of a crime, you have rights and deserve the best criminal defense attorney in Maryland to fight for the protection of those rights. Consult an experienced attorney to fight on your behalf and defend your rights.