Criminal Law

Crimes may harm people or property, or they may involve acts specifically forbidden by law.

People who have been charged with a crime have strong protections under the U.S. Constitution.

A defendant may show that they did not actually commit a crime or that their actions were justified.

Most criminal cases are resolved before trial in a compromise with the prosecution.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do the police need to read the Miranda warnings before talking to a suspect?
    The police must read the Miranda warnings before they interrogate someone who is in custody. Whether a custodial interrogation is occurring depends on the specific circumstances.
  • When are search and seizure rules triggered?
    Search and seizure rules apply when law enforcement conducts a search that invades a citizen’s legitimate expectation of privacy. The expectation must be objectively reasonable in the situation.
  • How many criminal cases go to trial?
    Very few criminal cases go to trial. Over 90 percent of all cases result in a plea bargain, in which the defendant pleads guilty or no contest in exchange for a lesser charge or lighter sentence.
  • Can I get an arrest off my record?
    In some states, law enforcement will eliminate an arrest from an individual’s record automatically if they are not charged. Otherwise, you may need to petition for a finding of factual innocence.
  • When do I need a lawyer for a criminal case?
    A defendant almost always should hire a lawyer to handle a criminal case. When so much is at stake, the knowledge and experience accumulated by a professional can make a huge difference.
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Popular Topics

  • Drug Crimes
    Federal and state laws strictly regulate and in many cases prohibit the manufacture, sale, transportation, and use of many drugs, from narcotics to medical marijuana and other substances.
  • Bail and Bonds
    A defendant can remain out of custody until their case is resolved by posting court-ordered bail as an assurance that they will appear in court when required.
  • Probation and Parole
    Probation can offer a more lenient alternative to a jail sentence, while parole allows a defendant to leave prison before the end of their sentence if they meet certain conditions.
  • White Collar Crimes
    White-collar crimes are offenses committed for financial gain and can include a broad range of crimes from certain types of theft and fraud to corruption and organized crime.
  • Theft Crimes
    Theft and property crimes include larceny, robbery, shoplifting, auto theft, and burglary, and the penalties vary widely, depending on prior offenses, the use of a weapon, and other factors.
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