Criminal law otherwise referred to as penal law involves the government’s act of prosecuting anyone for any act that is considered to be a crime. Criminal law is a body which concerns itself with crime and the punishment of criminal offenders with the severity varying with the offences committed. This law generally follows a four theoretical model of the following approaches; punishment, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation. The gist of these four approaches generally lie in the essence that by imposing them then the society achieves peace, justice and order. Violation of these set of rules that the government has set then makes it only imperative for one to suffer the consequences (Halpin, 2004).
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Criminal law violations call for drastic measures on the side of government and these laws are mostly unique for the consequences they attract. Each and every violation contains some form of elements or features that makes it to be classified as a crime. These elements are the deciding factor when it comes to making a decision on how the offender will be punished. The severity of the punishment is directly dependant on these features which if they lack then the action is therefore not considered to be a crime. Since the criminal law acts as a deterrent to undesirable acts, proof of the action must therefore be required in order for one to be accused of violation of a criminal law.
Criminal law is categorized into five divisions which are also known as crimes. The five categories are treason, felonies, inchoate offences, misdemeanor offences and espionage. Each of these categories has special features that any undesirable act may qualify to be labeled among any of them. When one is found to be guilty of performing an act that is regarded as a violation of criminal law then the necessary punishment is administered to the offender who is thus considered to be guilty of the said crime (Schmalleger, 2007).
Treason refers to the act of betraying ones own country or sovereignty. Those who are usually found guilty of this offence are commonly referred to as traitors. Treason from time in memorial has attracted heavy consequences with death being the common punishment administered to those found to be “Actus reus” a Latin term meaning guilty. This is the term that is used to describe an element of crime that is proven beyond “any reasonable doubt”. The term “Actus reus” goes hand in hand with another term “mens rea” which means a guilty mind (Cochran and Ann, 2007).
Felony is any serious crime that warrants the death punishment or time in a state or federal prison. Some of the common violations that may be considered as felonies may include some of these acts but not limited to them alone; rape, murder, arson, robbery, drug peddling, vandalism and burglary. Felonies are further classified as either violent or non-violent which in deciding the punishment that should be administered to offenders.
An inchoate offence is the crime whereby the one has an intention of performing a crime and this intent makes the person guilty. Conspiracy is the most common feature of this type of crime. Although no actual harm is done, it is considered a crime when the action that was intended to be taken was one that was unlawful. According to the law, every inchoate crime offender has to have a “mens rea” or a guilty mind.
Espionage is a crime which involves the act of individual obtaining information that is regarded to be very confidential or secret. A common word for this crime is spying. Some of the basic features of this type of crime involve the act of obtaining confidential information with and of gaining an unfair advantage over another party. A misdemeanor offence generally refers to “lesser crimes” which basically have lesser punishments. Some of the common crimes that fall under this category include prostitution, vandalism, petty thefts, disorderly conducts and other smaller crimes depending on a particular jurisdiction.
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