Criminal law is a complex area of law and legal advice should be sought at the first opportunity. There are many different aspects of criminal law and criminal offences can be categorized according to whether they are violent, civil, etc.
Below we will discuss some different examples of criminal offences and how criminal law applies to those scenarios. We will also be considering how criminal law and civil law intertwine and what the difference between civil and criminal law is with demonstrative examples.
The most critical advice you could receive however is to seek legal advice early. It will lower your stress, ensure a smoother process and by all accounts demonstrate to the court that you are taking the matter seriously.
What Is Criminal Law?
Criminal law is the foundation for the criminal justice system and it underpins the process of determining a guilty or not guilty verdict. The criminal justice system is designed to protect society and courts create a sense of security for the general community.
There can be several different pieces of legislation to consider depending on the circumstances of the charge and it is important to seek advice from an expert in the field to ensure no mistakes are made with interpretation. All criminal law offences are subject to the Criminal Code specific to each individual state and territory however there are other acts such as the Drug Misuse Act or Traffic offences legislation which may need to be considered in conjunction with the criminal code act.
You should never attempt to interpret legislation without the assistance of expert legal advice. Interpretation is key when determining legislation and a wrong interpretation could be the difference between a guilty and not guilty verdict.
Legislation will contain a breakdown of the elements required to prove a specific criminal charge, a definition of what constitutes each specific act as well as an indication of whether there are any maximum or minimum sentences. This creates a somewhat universal punishment system for the courts to rely on but there is discretion for Magistrate’s and judges depending on the circumstances. There is also the option to mix and match sentences and order more than one type of sentence.
A core area of criminal law is traffic offences. These types of criminal offenses relate to illegal conduct committed whilst operating a motor vehicle or motorbike. This includes drink driving, speeding, driving under the influence of illicit drugs, etc.
Traffic offenses are heard in either the District court or Supreme court depending on the severity of the charge. The district court hears summary offences while the Supreme Court hears indictable offences.
These offences are simply one aspect of criminal law however it is the aspect that most people are familiar with. You can commit a traffic offence without ever having the matter taken to court.
What Sentences Can I Be Subject To?
- Monetary Penalty;
- Suspended Sentence;
- Term of Imprisonment;
- Community Corrections Order.
How Is A Criminal Offence Prosecuted?
Criminal prosecution of a criminal act is subject to the a court process in either the supreme or district court. It is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.
It is the responsibility of the defence to refute the prosecution’s evidence and damage its credibility. If there is doubt then the prosecution have not made their case and a guilty verdict cannot be proven.
If your matter is heard in the supreme court then it is classed as an indictable offence and will be subject to a trial by judge and jury. If your matter is heard in the district court then it is classed as a summary offence and will be subject to an independent judicial officer or Magistrate.
What Is The Difference Between Civil Law and Criminal Law?
The main difference between criminal law and civil law is that civil law involves disputes that are subject to a lower standard of proof. Specifically, civil law is measured against a balance of probabilities whereas criminal law is measured beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal law offences are heard in a higher court to that of civil law offences.
Criminal law cases have a higher standard of proof as they are usually a more serious aspect of law but they carry more serious penalties. Typically, civil law involves monetary compensation as a punishment instead of a term of imprisonment however different circumstances are taken into account.
Civil cases require the individual bringing the dispute to bear the onus of proof which is not unlike criminal law. in this regard. The accused person never bears the onus of proof. However, civil proceedings may result in the losing party paying the winning party’s legal costs which is unlike criminal law. This is a process designed to deter people from making claims which hold little merit or evidence.
Civil Law Cases
Civil law, or tort law, is heard in a civil court room instead of a criminal court room. Civil claim disputes are subject to torts and negligence law and are not held to the same standard as criminal claims.
Civil cases still require the same process as criminal law cases. Persuasive authority is needed, the judge is required to hear evidence and determine the weight and merit to be attached and state law (civil laws) still needs to be applied. The evidence is then considered against the balance of probabilities to determine an outcome.
Civil law cases can involve criminal law proceedings however as civil offending can lead to criminal charges depending on the circumstances. If a criminal case arises from a civil claim it is because the action of the individual also breached a section of the criminal code or other legislation.
Common law refers to the laws created which form case law. It is a historical consideration of law that is derived from Roman law. Common law is commonly referred to as either case law or statute law and it is a critical aspect of all legal principles.
Statute law and case law is a relevant consideration of criminal law and civil law as precedent cases are applied when determining both guilt and sentencing. Courts will adopt the principles from cases which have come before when determining the factors of present cases. An accused person should be aware of this and take advice from their lawyer appropriately.