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Criminal Law Evaluation - American Criminal Justice System

Autor:   •  January 31, 2012  •  Case Study  •  972 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,950 Views

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Criminal Law Evaluation

Criminal law is the basis for the American criminal justice system. According to Cornell University Law School (2010), “a "crime" is any act or omission (of an act) in violation of a public law forbidding or commanding it (para. 2). Criminal law protects society from the deliberate harm perpetrated by others. The United States Congress and the individual states have enacted laws that define specific crimes and the accompanying punishments when those laws are broken.

Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Criminal Law

The United States has two specific governments, federal and state, that oversee the enforcement of criminal law in this country. Typically, jurisdiction refers to a geographic territory or state in which law enforcement agencies enforce local and state laws. However, jurisdiction also means which level of government is going to handle the investigation and prosecution of a particular crime. If a crime occurs that involves both state and federal laws, the United States Constitution mandates that the federal government have jurisdiction (Schmalleger, 2010). Federal jurisdiction includes crimes involving immigration, bankruptcy, civil rights, and interstate and international commerce (Schmalleger, 2010). States retain the power to create laws with regard to criminalizing certain behaviors and activities (Schmalleger, 2010).

Adversarial System and Standards of Proof

In the adversarial system, the prosecution and the defense are competitors in the courtroom who debate the evidentiary facts of a criminal case in front of a judge and often times a jury as well. The prosecution has the burden of proving their case with clear and convincing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard of proof in criminal cases is high, but absolute proof is not required. It merely has to be beyond any reasonable doubt. In addition, clear and convincing evidence is, according to Schmalleger (2010), “greater than preponderance of evidence but less than beyond a reasonable doubt” (p. 29). The defense has no obligation to prove the defendant did not commit the crime(s) they are charged with.

Criminal Liability and Accomplice Liability

Criminal liability means holding a person legally responsible for their actions or the omission of an act (Cornell University Law School, 2010). For example, if a person commits robbery, they are criminally liable for the crime. Accomplice liability is the level of accountability an individual is held responsible for when they assist in the commission of a crime. For example, an individual who assists in a robbery by standing watch can be charged as an accomplice. Although the individual may have no prior knowledge that a crime was about to take place, if they encourage, assist, or abet the criminal, they can be charged as an


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