Criminal law is best understood as it differs from civil law. Where civil law involves individuals disagreeing over their rights, and seeking restitution or compensation, a criminal lawyer deals with people who have (or may have) committed crimes.

Understanding What Criminal Law Attorneys Do

handcuffs and criminal attorney assistance

Where the civil law attorney is often trying to get a financial settlement for his or her client, the criminal law attorney is seeking punishment, or the avoidance of punishment. The punishments in criminal cases vary widely, from small fines to lengthy prison sentences.

Every state has its own criminal code, and those states’ codes are often drastically different from one another. The U.S. Congress has codified certain crimes, in Title 18 of the U.S. Code (Crimes and Criminal Procedure), to be federal crimes.

No state may prosecute a person for an action that was not declared criminal at the time it was committed. As an assertion of this concept, the U.S. Constitution forbids any law that is “ex post facto,” or applicable retroactively.

If the state had declared the action in question criminal, however, the individual who carried out that action can be apprehended and taken to criminal court. Similarly, an omission in violation of a law ordering it – for example, not paying your taxes – can make an individual subject to criminal law proceedings.

Criminal Law Issues

Generally, there are four types of crimes a criminal lawyer deals with:

  • Felonies (usually punished with more than a year of prison time)
  • Misdemeanors (usually punished with less than a year of prison time)
  • Strict liability offenses (an action committed regardless of intent or mental state, such as statutory rape or possession crimes)

If you are in Cincinnati and are in need of a criminal law attorney, please call Donnellon, Donnellon, and Miller at 513-891-7087 for a consultation.