When there is talk of Crime in the United States of America, an American citizen bears in mind some of the crimes one may fall victim of, or perpetrate; aiding and abetting/accessory, arson, assault/battery, bribery, burglary, child abuse, child pornography, computer crime, conspiracy, credit/debit card fraud, disorderly conduct, domestic violence, drug cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and or trafficking, drug possession, embezzlement, extortion forgery, identity theft, hate crime, indecent exposure, insurance fraud, kidnapping, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, a minor in possession, money laundering, first degree murder, second degree murder, perjury, prostitution, public intoxication, pyramid schemes, racketeering, rape, robbery, securities fraud, sexual assault, stalking, statutory rape, tax evasion, telemarketing fraud, theft/larceny, wire fraud, terrorism et cetra. What a plethora, is Crime today!
The first encounter average law abiding Americans have with Crime today, may be two-fold; one, either enjoying a court-room drama from the comfort of their recliner sofas or two, being victims of crime. This inevitably is our introduction to the Criminal Justice System (LaFave and Scott, 1986). When we individually become involved, only then does the Criminal Justice System come into focus, as the instinctive need for assistance prompts seeking of information. What do we understand by the term Crime? Crime is any behavior or act that is deemed harmful to citizens or destructive to the collective society. Such acts and/or conducts are called crime and are punishable by fines and or imprisonment.
]The federal government, the states and local government legislatures enact statutes identifying crimes within their respective jurisdictions. For example most cities have passed legislation against smoking in non-designated areas, while the federal government prosecutes acts of terrorism as a federal crime, since 9/11. The American courts rely on the criminal statutes to illustrate the kind of demeanor that has been deemed a crime, the state of mind or intent necessary and in several instances, the proper sanctions.
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Fundamentally, there are two types of laws; Civil law and Criminal law. What constitutes Criminal law? When does a crime become criminal? Criminal law defines acts that the government through Congress or state legislature has classified as crimes, and would seek punishment of the offender, on behalf of the society. Under Criminal law, the state through the district attorney's office exercises the sole discretion in initiating and control proceedings, with or without the approval of the concerned parties. Any one convicted under criminal law is sanctioned with a fine or imprisonment or both.
Any defendant charged under criminal law, is entitled to legal representation, a government-paid attorney is chosen for those that cannot afford a lawyer. Only civil law proceedings, where incarceration is a possibility are exceptions to this general rule. Under Criminal law, the district attorney's office must prove a defendant's guilt beyond any reasonable doubt, in order to obtain a conviction.
Every defendant has a primary right to a jury trial, under Criminal law. There are crimes that breach both Criminal and Civil laws. An offender whose actions infringe both criminal and civil regulations may be criminally prosecuted by the state and civilly sued by the victims. Crimes under the Criminal law are broadly categorized into two; felonies and misdemeanors.
A misdemeanor is a lesser serious criminal offense in comparative to a felony but more serious than an infraction. It is punishable by a fine or imprisonment in a local jail, or both. Misdemeanors are generally categorized into high or gross misdemeanors, ordinary misdemeanors, and petty misdemeanors. Petty misdemeanors may face up to six months in jail and a fine of 500 dollars. The penal code prescription penalty for an offender convicted of gross misdemeanors is stiffer that that handed down for ordinary misdemeanors but less stiff in comparison to what a felony gets you. A gross misdemeanor is defined in some States penal codes as crimes that fall just short of being considered a felony or a misdemeanor. These broad definitions are purposely used to give judges and the district attorney's offices leeway in charging and sentencing for criminal acts that deserve retribution combining a fine assessed for a misdemeanor and a custodial sentence handed down for a felony.
A felony is a crime that entails moral turpitude. These are crimes that infringe on the moral values of the society. These are serious offences punishable by a fine, incarceration for more than 12 months, or both. Most states penal codes define felonies by the span and the place of imprisonment. For example inmates in a local jail were mostly convicted of misdemeanors, which are lesser felonies. The big boys who dabble in felony are either at a state facility or shipped to a maximum federal correctional facility. A crime punishable by incarceration at either a local jail or a state correctional facility would be classified according to where the convict actually serves time.
Repeat heinous felony offenders rightly receive severe punishment consumerate with the circumstances surrounding the crime while first-time offenders convicted of comparatively less hateful, cruel or injurious felony escape with lighter sentences. Today crimes that are classified as felonies are still considered offensive to the moral standards of the general populace. They include terrorism, treason, arson, murder, rape, robbery, burglary, kidnapping. Felony Murder, crimes against the person: Negligent Homicide, Reckless Homicide, Intentional Homicide, Aggravated Assault, Assault, Criminal damage, Custodial interference, Disorderly conduct, Endangerment, False reporting, Harassment, Interfering with judicial proceedings, Manslaughter, Misconduct involving weapons, Perjury, Resisting arrest, Robbery, Second Degree Murder, Stalking, Unlawful imprisonment. For this research paper we focus on crimes against the person, majorly murder, treason, terrorism and war-time Criminal Justice.
The right to life is sacrosanct and protected.
It follows therefore, that one commits a criminal offence if he or she murders. Murder is the unlawfully taking or terminating of another persons life. That is to say, to cause the death of a human person. Murders are classified according to the State penal code statutes; First degree murder, second degree murder, felony murder, manslaughter, aiding another to take own life, that is commit suicide, . Broadly, first degree murders are to a fair degree intentional. For example, getting a loaded revolver from where it is normally stored in the closet, in your office den, calmly walking into the kitchen, removing the safety clip, raise it up and take aim of the rear of your spouse head as checks on the dinner in the microwave, pull the trigger, and release it. And calmly call 911.
That is cold blood murder, first degree all the way. Only the very best attorneys could pack you off to a maximum federal correctional facility to serve multiple life sentences with no possibility of parole. You could easily head for the electric chair or the lethal injection, depending on the state where the crime was committed. Second degree murders are mostly as a result of domestic quarrels. A couple might get into an argument, and in the course of the heated exchange, one party strikes another and the victim drops dead or intentional aiding another person to commit suicide or being coerced by use or threatened use of fatal physical force on your person, to kill another person, which any rational human would be unable to defy. Causing physical injury to an expectant woman knowingly, resulting in the death of her unborn child is second degree murder. Murder regardless of the degree, is a very serious felony. Offenders most often get life sentences with no possibility of parole. One would consider themselves lucky if they get away with a fifteen years plus, custodial sentence in a state jail. Because of the high rate of crimes in the inner cities that often result in murders, judges are increasingly handing down even more stiffer penalties.
Treason is serious acts of betrayal of one's sovereign state, nation or government. This broadly entails aiding the enemy, providing comfort to an enemy, waging a war against the state et cetra. The English people were the first to include treason in its constitution, during the ancient rule of Kings. During this ancient time treason was still defined vaguely with the main intention being to protect the interests of the crown. Therefore, anything contrary to the Kings will as well as murder of social superiors, such as a woman killing her spouse qualified for a lesser treason charge. Treason was historically categorized as either high treason or lesser treason. However the American law has a more specific definition of the treason. The American Criminal law Statutes stipulate that no person shall be convicted of the crime of treason unless on the evidence of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. Treason attracts severe retribution for the offender. Even during ancient times, crimes of treason were dealt with harshly. As James observes:
"Formerly, the punishment for high treason was of a most barbarous character.... Women were burnt. A male traitor was dragged or drawn to the place of execution and hanged; but while still alive, he was cut down and disemboweled. His head was then severed from his body which was quartered. The head and quarters, which were at the Kings disposal, were usually exposed in some conspicuous place-the Temple Bar being a favorite spot-after being boiled in salt to prevent putrification and in cumin seed to prevent birds feasting on them." (Joyce, 1952).
According to the American constitution issues such as disloyalty, public incitement among other things does not constitute treason. The penalty meted out on most treason cases is capital punishment. Otherwise the only lesser penalty would see the convicted loosing his/her property and in other cases even citizenship.
Terrorism has brought about a totally new discipline of study in the field judicial system. By definition it refers to an act of mass killing...... During the early sixties, terrorism was loosely defined on Israeli-Palestine style of military confrontation. Over time terrorism spans a wide front of activities. With the development of sophisticated yet easy to hide weapons of destruction, this has only broadened the scope of the subject. Today, most governments are engaging in bilateral talks to work in collaboration in trying to track coordinated terrorism networks. While government's intention to fight this vice is in the interest of its subjects, the war on terrorism has proved to be costly and elusive as the terrorists themselves. Cultural/religious division and financial costs incurred are some of the collateral effects evident in this struggle. Blanket condemnation of countries suspected to harbor terrorists or promoting terrorist related activities have seen major wars fought that are having serious financial and cultural implications among countries involved.
On the other hand this leads to instability and suspicion amongst rival nations. Constant accusations are being leveled against each other even in cases where the act of terrorism committed was self propagated. This has rekindled the spirit of an arms race that once existed during the Cold War era. Enemy nations consider themselves vulnerable to attack in the absence of nuclear stock piles of the so called weapons of mass destruction.
Internally governments are struggling to pass legislation intended to curb this emerging threat. This has prompted human rights groups and other civil society bodies to rise up in arms challenging these laws which are still vague. This is partly due to the fact that terrorism is organized, funded and carried out through a network that spans across borders and even continents thus making it a judicial nightmare.
During wartime, captured persons are taken in as prisoners of war. Since these persons are from a foreign land, special laws need to be crafted to charge them since they not fully qualify to be called criminals. In this effect, the United Nations came up with the Geneva War Convention document that stipulates rules and regulations that govern treatment and handling of these prisoners (Champion, 2001).
Therefore all signatory countries are expected to base their war time laws on these conventions. Majority of those affected are those who face possible terrorism charges in foreign territory.
Though they may be American citizens, the executive order signed by President Bush, waives the accused person's rights as they are treated like any other foreigner would be treated. Recently there has been an outcry that some countries are violating the Geneva rules of war in regards to treatment of prisoners of war. America in specific has been put on the spot concerning the indefinite detention of prisoners under inhuman conditions. War time criminal is the new frontier that is currently eliciting a lot of debate among Americans primarily due to the domestic terrorism Act of the homeland security. This has majorly affected Americans who profess the Muslim faith. The Muslim community is outraged by indiscriminate arrests and detention of members of their community.
In conclusion, Crime in America today has evolved over time and gotten quiet complex. Most Americans are caution of identity theft more than ever before. You can't know when you could get hit. It is up to the courts to deter crime in very way possible. This can be achieved by stiffer penalties that would deter would offenders. As we strive to prevent crime, the society must also accept convicted felons after their release from correctional facilities. It is only when we integrate them that we stem the tide of would be repeat offenders committing the same crime. The Criminal Justice system has to be improved to cater for all the parties involved. Especially the rights of the accused persons have to be safe-guarded, so that it seems fair and just. It does not achieve much if it is considered unjust. To this end the courts have to be adequately funded, our judicial officers better remunerated states prosecution offices adequately staffed. All these efforts would be in vain if the state police are not properly trained and equipped to fight crime on our street, especially handling evidence at scenes of crime so that, mistrials are not declared in courts.
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