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Criminal Law

How Are Criminal Charges Handled?

Criminal law involves prosecution by the government of a person for an act that has been classified as a crime.

Government prosecutes crimes in criminal law. Civil cases deal with individuals or organizations resolving disputes. In criminal cases, a state prosecutor initiates the suit. In civil ones, the victim does. Criminal convictions can lead to incarceration or fines. Civil liability might result in property loss or payments, but not jail.

A “crime” refers to any act or omission that violates a public law. Most U.S. crimes come from local, state, and federal governments, not common law. Criminal laws differ across states. The Model Penal Code (MPC) provides a basic understanding of criminal liability.

Crimes fall into felonies (e.g., murder or rape) and misdemeanors (e.g., petty theft or jaywalking). Felonies usually lead to imprisonment for over a year; misdemeanors less so. An act isn’t criminal unless established by statute or common law. The list of federal crimes affecting interstate activities or federal operations keeps expanding.

To describe criminal behavior, break down statutes into elements. Most crimes require two elements: an act (“actus reus”) and a mental state (“mens rea”). To get a conviction, prosecutors must prove all elements of a crime. They must convince the jury or judge with facts “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In civil cases, proving liability requires showing evidence that is “more than 50 percent” convincing.

Get a Free Consultation

If you are facing criminal charges, put a skilled attorney on your side. The criminal lawyers of Palacios Law Group will discuss your case with you in a free consultation. Call (631)673-1000 or email us to set up an appointment.

We are located in Mineola and work throughout New York.


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