Unlike Civil Law, which involves private law suits between two or more private entities, Criminal Law Attorneys represent clients who are being prosecuted by the state or federal government for an act that has been classified as a crime. With the exception of strict liability crimes, most crimes consist of three elements: an act (actus reus), a mental state (mens rea) and the intent to do social harm. Crimes are classified as misdemeanors–less serious offenses that are normally punishable by a fine like some traffic violations, petty theft, or possession of a small amount of marijuana, and felonies–more serious offenses that warrant imprisonment of one or more years, such as rape, grand theft, assault and battery, assault with a deadly weapon, or homicide/murder.
In Criminal Law Attorney, the suit is initiated by the state or federal government through a prosecutor rather than being initiated by the victim, as it is in civil law. Plaintiffs in a civil law suit only need to show by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant is 51% or more liable (responsible) for the damages. But, the prosecutor in a criminal law case has to prove to the judge or jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged..
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