What Types of Action Fall Under the Criminal Law Umbrella?
Criminal law covers a whole host of laws, but its defining characteristic is that it represents crimes committed against the public. This means the nature of a criminal act undermines the interests of the public as a whole.
Civil law, on the other hand, covers crimes committed against individuals. Breaking a contract would be an example of a civil crime, as it doesn’t affect all of society.
Still, this is a rather basic understanding of what criminal law entails. To get a better understanding of what types of things fall under the general umbrella of “criminal law”, we’ll begin with the three broad categories of crime:
Generally speaking, a misdemeanor is the lightest of criminal offenses. This is reflected in the types of sentences people found guilty of misdemeanors typically receive. Although, according to Maryland law, a misdemeanor can result in a ten year prison term. However, imprisonment can also last 9 days or even less. Often, the convicted will simply pay a fine of between $500 and $5,000.
Examples of misdemeanors in Maryland include:
- Second degree assault
- Driving under the influence
- Possession of marijuana or other controlled substances
- Carrying a concealed dangerous weapon
A felony is a very serious crime. Typically it will involve grave physical harm or the threat of grave physical harm to someone. However, felonies may also apply to white collar crimes and fraud.
Misdemeanors may be raised to the level of a felony if they are committed by repeat offenders.
Punishments for felonies can range from a year in prison to life without parole. As of May 2, 2013, the death penalty has been repealed in the state of Maryland.
Examples of felonies in Maryland include:
- First degree assault
- Murder (Murder in the 1st Degree is the most serious felony in Maryland)
Each individual felony in Maryland carries with it a statute of limitations. This means that the State must charge an individual suspected of a crime within a certain amount of time from when that crime was committed or is believed to have been committed. When that statute expires, they no longer have a case to bring to court. A crime like murder has no statute of limitations at all.
While the law allows any person accused of a crime to serve as their own representation, accepting the help from at least a public defender is highly recommended. Given the potential penalties involved, including simply have a criminal record, it is best to elicit help from a professional.
Your best bet will always be to hire an attorney who has direct experience in the area of criminal defense law. Criminal defense attorneys don’t simply work to get a not guilty verdict. They are also extremely beneficial for negotiating the charges themselves and the punishments that come with them. Even if you are found guilty, you will still be better having hired an attorney. For example, and experienced attorney will explore the possibility of a probation before judgment, a suspended sentence, or request a sentence be limited to weekends or include work release.
If your ruling in a criminal case is guilty, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of the road. You are guaranteed the right to appeal the decision. However, the rules of appeal, including what issues are appealable and the timeframes to ensure your appeal are considered, oftentimes necessitates an attorney to be successful.