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Published on October 30th, 2013 | by Daniel Perlman


Being Charged With A Criminal Offense

Criminal cases involve an action that violates public codes of behavior as embodied in the laws. The state or federal government prosecutes individuals or institutions considered to be harmful to society as a whole. In the American judicial system, the accused party is innocent until proven guilty. This principle puts the burden of proof on the government.

A person accused of a crime is generally charged in a formal accusation called an indictment (for felonies or serious crimes) or information (for misdemeanors). The government, on behalf of the people of the United States, prosecutes the case through the United States Attorney’s Office if the person is charged with a federal crime. A state’s attorney’s office prosecutes state crimes. In California, Superior courts have trial jurisdiction over all criminal cases including felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic matters.

A victim of a crime does not have the responsibility to bring a criminal case. In a kidnapping case, for instance, the government would prosecute the kidnapper; the victim would not be a party to the action. When deciding to prosecute a particular case, the government decides if there is sufficient evidence to do so.

In some criminal cases, society in general may be the victim as opposed to a specific individual. For example, state governments arrest and prosecute people accused of violating laws against driving while intoxicated (DUI) because society regards that as a serious offense that can result in harm to others.

Upon conviction of a crime, the individual will receive a sentence imposed by the court. The sentence may be an order to pay a fine and/or restitution to the victim, prison or jail term, or probation supervised by a probation officer, or some combination of these three things.

In the United States, civil and criminal legal actions are not combined into one case. If there are serious civil and criminal aspects of an event, there will be two (or more) distinct cases in which the accused may be tried. The well known O.J. Simpson case is noted for a conviction in the civil case, but not the in criminal case.

Daniel R. Perlman
The Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman

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