Criminal law deals with the set of statutes and rules made by various governments on how citizens should conduct themselves in neither manner that does not threaten nor harm or compromise the safety and welfare of the general population. Criminal law also sets out the punishments for those who have committed criminal acts.
Felonies vs. misdemeanors
Criminal acts often fall under two categories– felonies or misdemeanors. Felony deals with grave acts that have severe punishment such as death penalty or imprisonment of more than 12 months. Governments vary in how they further categorize felonies and their corresponding punishments.
Elements of a crime
There are two elements that need to be satisfied before anyone is found guilty for committing a criminal act. These are overt criminal act and criminal intent.
An overt criminal act happens when the person being charged has committed an act prohibited by law in purpose. An act is considered to be purposeful when the accused has a defined objective or end-result in mind. Acting purposefully also means that the act is both deliberate and voluntary.
Failure to act or omission may also be construed as a criminal act if there is a responsibility to act. For example, parents have the duty to keep their children safe from harm. The absence of the parents to act reasonably to protect their off spring can be construed as a criminal act arising from recklessness.
Criminal intent, on the other hand, must be created before the commission of a particular act. The criminal intent must have been existing prior to the commission of an unlawful act which means that both the intent and act were formed and committed instantaneously.