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Chapter 1 – 1.03 The Law

CRIMINAL LAW

1.03 The Law

 

                Crime is defined as an act or omission forbidden by law, for which the state may punish in its own name. The determination as to whether a particular act is criminal or merely civil in nature is a function of the legislature of each jurisdiction. Criminal acts differ from civil wrongs in that criminal actions are brought in the name of the state. The wrong is considered to be committed against the state and not just against the particular victim.

TYPES OF LAWS

 

A.NATURAL

 

B.CRIMINAL

 

C.CIVIL

 

D.COMMON

 

E.CASE

 

F.STATUTORY

 

G.CONSTITUTIONAL

 

H.ADMINISTRATIVE

 

PURPOSES OF LAWS

 

A.PROTECT OWNERSHIP

 

B.DEFINE THE PARAMETERS OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PROPERTY

 

C.REGULATE BUSINESS

 

D.RAISE REVENUE

 

E.ENFORCE AGREEMENTS (CONTRACTS/RELATIONSHIPS)

 

F.PRESERVE ORDER

 

G.MAINTAIN STATUS QUO

 

H.PROTECT PERSONS AND PROPERTY

 

                The criminal law system of the United States is a product of both the common law heritage of England and the codified laws of Europe. America's system of criminal law is a blend of these two systems. Today almost all criminal laws are included in statutes.

                The common law began as a result of the habits of individuals and the customs of groups. These habits and customs were so en­trenched in society that they became the accepted norms of behavior. When courts were developed to handle disputes between citi­zens, violations of these customs were heard. In hearing these cases, judges began to record their decisions. Judges later hearing similar disputes often looked to these prior cases for guidance. This proce­dure became known as Stare Decisis‑‑the following of precedents. In this manner, the customs of the common people became the source of the common law.

                In Europe, on the other hand, most laws were codified by the leaders of the various countries. If a particular act was not banned by the leader of the country and was not codified as a violation, then no violation was said to exist. Thus, the common law was developed by the common people and was imposed on the rulers of the coun­try; while the civil law was developed by the rulers and imposed on the common people.

                It is a basic rule of law that criminal statutes must be precise and clear. An individual must be in a position to read the statute and understand exactly what behavior the legislature is attempting to prohibit.

                The common law tradition involving the concept of stare decisis which in effect is a concept of judge-made law, is one that is followed in all jurisdictions in the United States today. Once a decision has been reached in an actual case by a court, the decision thereafter becomes a precedent for that court and for all courts beneath it. Stare decisisis an important part of our legal tradition in that it provides for continuity and stability with regard to judicial interpre­tations of acts, statutes, and legal decisions.

                In discussing the various classifications of criminal activity, the following categories are often referred to by law enforcement:

 

                1.             Crimes against the person;

                2.             Crimes against the home;

                3.             Crimes against property;

                4.             Crimes against public health, safety and morals;

                5.             Crimes against the public peace;

                6.             Crimes affecting the administration of justice;

                7.             Crimes affecting the conduct of governmental functions.

 

By legal definition, crimes are generally divided into the following classes:

 

                1.             Treason;

                2.             Capital felonies (crimes punishable by death);

                3.             Life felonies (crimes punishable by up to life imprison­ment);

                4.             First Degree felonies (in Florida, punishable by a term of imprisonment in the State penitentiary, not exceeding 30 years);

                5.             Second Degree felonies (punishable in Florida by a term of imprisonment in the State penitentiary, not exceeding 15 years);

                6.             Third Degree felonies (punishable in Florida by a term of imprisonment in the State penitentiary, not exceeding 5 years);

                7.             First Degree misdemeanor (punishable in Florida by a term of imprisonment in the county jail, not exceeding 1 year);

                8.             Second Degree misdemeanor (punishable in Florida by a term of imprisonment in the county jail, not exceeding 60 days).

 

                For the police officer, the classification of criminal conduct as felony or misdemeanor is of great importance. The classifi­cation of such crimes affects:

 

                1.             When an arrest may be made and under what circum­stances;

                2.             The amount of force that may be used by the law enforce­ment officer in executing the arrest; and

                3.             The effect of a conviction on the life of the defendant.