According to criminal law, when offenses are committed that are detrimental to the society, these are labelled as crimes. It is a legal fiction, according to common law jurisdiction, that the peace of the sovereign is disturbed in crimes committed. Offenders of peace of the sovereign will be prosecuted by the government officials who are the agents of the sovereign. Under criminal law, the plaintiff refers to, in practical terms, as the monarch or the people.
Unlike in civil law when the objective is individual compensation, the major objective of criminal law is deterrence and punishment. There are two distinct elements in a criminal offence and these are the physical act or the actus reur or guilty act, and the requisite mental state of which the act is done or mens rea or guilty mind. As an example in a murder case, the actus reus is the unlawful killing of the person, while the mens rea is the intention or malice to kill or cause grave injury to the person. The criminal law specifies the punishment that will be put on the concern person, and it also would require the defendants to detail their defences so that their criminal responsibility will be lessen or negated. The offender will not be prosecuted under a victim of a victim’s consent under the criminal law. Be informed also that the consent of the victim cannot be a defence in many crimes and a criminal prosecution can happen even with the objections of the victim.
There are two fields that a criminal law would play in most jurisdictions of both common and civil law traditions. The first would be to address the violations of criminal law, and so the criminal procedure would regulate the process. Another field is the substantive criminal law that specifies the definition of and punishments for in the different crimes.
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With criminal law, crimes from civil wrongs like tort or breach of contract are distinguished from the other. To regulate the behaviour of individuals and groups in relation to the norms of society at large, criminal law is seen to function this, while civil law is mainly directed at the relationships between private individuals and their rights and obligations based on the law. In the past, ancient legal system did not really have a distinction between civil and criminal law, but there later on modified in the late nineteenth century. The basic course in criminal law in most U.S. law schools is based upon the English common criminal law of 1750.
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There are several types of criminal law and these are arrests and searches, drug crimes, juvenile law, drunk driving, parole, probation, pardons, violent crimes, white collar crimes and military law.
The other term for criminal law is penal law, a term used to refer to various rule bodies in distinct jurisdictions.