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Criminal Litigation

Criminal Litigation

What Is Criminal Litigation?

Criminal Litigation is the process of going to trial in a criminal court to either prosecute or defend oneself in a criminal matter. The Due Process clause of the United States Constitution specifically states that individuals "may not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." In leamans terms this means that prior to the government ordering incarceration for an individual who has, allegedly, committed a crime the government must give that person his day in court. Criminal Litigation may involve a misdemeanor, often defined as a crime with an incarceration period of no more than 12 months and/or a fine not to be above a certain amount. It may also involve a felony, which is categorized, generally, as crimes that require longer jail time and/or higher fines. Criminal Litigation can take place in either Federal or State Court depending on the nature of the crime.

What Is The Difference Between Civil And Criminal Litigation?

There are a number of essential differences between civil and Criminal Litigation. First and foremost, CRIMINAL LITIGATION involves the prosecution by the State or Federal government of a defendant charged with a crime. Civil litigation involves matters between individuals or entities against each other for matters such as torts and contract disputes. The idea of CRIMINAL LITIGATION is to punish, the purpose of CIVIL LITIGATION is to "correct a wrong."

Am I Entitled To Legal Representation In Criminal Litigation?

The Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright single handedly ended the debate over whether or not a defendant charged with a felony is entitled to court appointed counsel, also known as a public defender. Argersinger v. Hamlin built on this precedent by noting that the right to counsel to all misdemeanor state proceedings where there is a possibility of a loss of liberty. As for misdemeanor's that involve only the imposition of a fine, whether it be minor or excessive the "jury is still out" but some States have recognized that the imposition of excessive fines are considered criminal and as such the right to counsel under the 6th Amendment is necessary. As with any other legal matter it is important to research and discover the procedural statutes and case precedents in your State to determine your rights or those of others.

What Are The Procedural Aspects Of Criminal Litigation?

Because being charged with a criminal offense is such a serious matter and not only carries with it possible incarceration, criminal fines, and/or public stigma there are numerous safeguards put into place. Many States in the Union require that the State present their evidence to a grand jury prior to charging a suspect of a felony. A grand jury, unlike a trial jury, does not sit for just one case and does not administer guilt or innocence. The job of the grand jury is strictly to listen to the evidence presented by the prosecution and make a determination as to whether the State should file criminal charges against a defendant.

What Are My Rights When Subjected To Criminal Litigation?

In brief, there are numerous Constitutional rights associated with Criminal Litigation. States have expanded on these rights in some cases. For example, New York's 6th Amendment protection goes above and beyond that proscribed by the Constitution and the Federal laws. Most importantly, a defendant is protected by the 5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution. A thorough reading and understanding of them is essential to insure that your rights are being protected.

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