Did you know that there are 7 principles of criminal law that govern the way crimes are processed and punished? The steps from hearing to sentencing will involve these 7 basic principles of criminal law.
This article will tell you all you need to know about what happens when someone is charged with a crime.
What Is Criminal Law?
Criminal law considers the regulation and punishment of offenders who commit crimes. The scope of this law covers not just what it means to commit a crime, but also the way lawyers need to prove offenses. It will also explore why punishments are necessary.
If you have committed a crime and would like to see where you what support is available for you, you can visit the sites of law firms. The law firm of Andrea Kolski, for instance, offers representation for a range of cases.
7 Principles of Criminal Law
When it comes to prosecuting offenders, attorneys need to follow the 7 principles of criminal law. They are the following:
The only way to consider someone’s conduct as a crime is if it is clearly a law that the action is illegal. If you see somebody kicking a dog and referred them to the police, only to find out that there are no rules saying this is not allowed, they will go free.
This principle ensures that people are not being punished for actions that may seem wrong or unethical but are nonetheless not crimes. An offense, therefore, must be clearly stated in law for it to count.
2. Actus Reus
Actus reus refers to a crime that involves a physical act or the lack thereof. For instance, a bank robber can be charged with the crime of robbing a bank if they start doing so. Actusreus does not consider the mental planning or awareness of a criminal act.
This is to say that if an attorney would like to prove that someone has committed a crime, they will have to explore the actus reus or the person’s conduct in relation to the allegation.
The idea of causation in law defines whether or not a person’s actions are something that contributes to the unfolding of an event. For instance, if you sell someone a few materials and they create a bomb, are you also at fault?
This principle determines whether someone should be charged with the criminal results of an action. If they played some role in the progression of events but were not instrumental to the crime taking place, they might not be guilty.
4. Harm Incurred
The harm principle of criminal law determines criminal actions by whether they actually caused any harm to others. For example, an act of arson will damage a person’s property and potentially harm them physically. This, therefore, falls under an illegal act.
If an act does not cause any harm to anyone, the judge will likely not consider it a crime.
5. Mens Rea
If actus reus refers to how the physical conduct of a person determines whether they are guilty of a crime, mens rea will consider the mental side of the issue. This principle questions whether a person is aware of the crimes they are committing.
For instance, if someone commits a murder, this seems like a cut and dry case by examining the actus reus. The person’s physical conduct has clearly resulted in the harm of another individual, and thus they should undergo punitive action.
However, what happens if the person is suffering from mental illnesses that prevent them from understanding what they are doing? This means that they don’t have the mental capacity to know the impacts of their actions. In court, this can result in an acquittal or a term in a psychiatric institution instead of a prison sentence.
Concurrence is about the combination of both actus reus and mens rea, and whether or not they align with each other. A crime must generally have concurrence between the physical act of committing a crime and the mental awareness or intent of carrying out the crime.
Just as before, a crime that includes actus reus but not strong enough evidence that the person is of sound mind – or understands what they’re doing – may not result in punishment.
Finally, the 7th principle of criminal law is the punishment aspect. If a person is guilty of a crime, the punishment they receive must reflect their act.
Not only will people have to be punished for committing crimes, but the punishment needs to be proportional to the gravity of their crimes. A pickpocketer will receive a different sentence from a murderer.
There are five different purposes for punishment, and they are deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, retribution, and restitution. Deterrence means that the threat of punishment may result in the unwillingness of people to commit crimes.
Incapacitation prevents the possibility of future crimes by removing the criminal from society. Rehabilitation seeks to improve the behavior of the offender. Retribution provides victims or survivors with the knowledge that the criminal has received justice.
Finally, restitution punishes someone financially, which can cover the costs for the victims of bringing the case to trial.
Underlying Principles of Criminal Law
Since criminal law encompasses the entire process of arresting someone for a crime to the point of finding them guilty, the 7 principles of criminal law are essential in allowing the justice system to make just decisions regarding guilt.
Among the principles, some of the most important ones are actus reus and mens rea. These two determine whether a crime can be considered a crime by investigating the concurrence between a person’s actions and their state of mind.
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