Areas of Practice: Criminal Law
Criminal law involves the process by which individuals (and in some instances, businesses) are alleged to have violated certain rules that have been enacted to protect members of society. The rules of the federal government and all individual state governments are codified into statutes. When an individual violates the rules as listed in the statutes, then the federal government or the state may prosecute the alleged wrongdoer. However, the wrongdoer is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Criminal defense is all about making sure the alleged wrongdoer’s rights are not violated and ensuring that the prosecutor meets that burden of proof before a punishment is doled out. If the prosecutor cannot meet that burden of proof then the alleged wrongdoer must be found not guilty of the alleged violation.
Some alleged violations are more serious than others. Misdemeanors are generally considered more minor infractions, while felonies are typically much more serious. However, in any situation where the possible punishment could be incarceration, the accused is entitled to a jury trial. A jury decides the facts of the case, while a judge decides the law that applies to the case. In some instances an accused may only be entitled to, or may prefer to, have a judge decide all the issues in a case. That is called a bench trial. If a person is found guilty of the crime he or she was accused of committing a judge will decide the proper punishment. Typically, the judge is guided by certain sentencing guidelines that have been prescribed by the legislature. In “capitol” cases a jury may be asked to decide if a convicted murderer is eligible for the death sentence.
Those who are accused of a crime are entitled to have an attorney represent them. They also have a right to remain silent so that their own words are not used to incriminate them.