Under the American system, there are two major branches of law. The first is civil law, which includes everything from divorce to breach of contract. Except for mostly divorce, the prevailing party is awarded money damages and/or is stopped (enjoined) from doing something. The second type is criminal law, which, if convicted of a crime in a criminal court, will result in some form of sentencing that is “penal” in nature.
Penal means that sentencing of the convicted offender is meant for the purpose of punishment and rehabilitation, with the possibility of imprisonment.
There is a wide array of crimes set forth in the Indiana Criminal Code, ranging from offenses against the person (such as murder, battery, kidnapping and robbery) to offenses against property (such as arson, trespass, fraud, and criminal conversion).
There are many similar crimes under the Federal Penal Code, although federal criminal charges are fewer in number or more obscure than state crimes. It may be you need to consult with an attorney to clarify if the matter is civil or criminal or both. The key to a good or better legal outcome is determining this in order to properly understand and know how to defend the case(s).
In some cases, being criminally charged with a crime means the alleged offender is also subject to a civil suit for damages inflicted upon the victim; this is true even if the criminal charge is dropped or the defendant is acquitted. By way of example, the “Indiana Crime Victim’s Relief Act” allows a person who has suffered a pecuniary (monetary) loss as a result of certain specific criminal acts to bring a civil action to recover for the loss. The claimant need prove by only a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed the elements criminal act.
Stated differently, a criminal conviction is not required or a prerequisite to recover damages in a civil action brought under the crime victim's relief act (or other civil torts), but the claimant must prove all the elements of the criminal act by a lower civil burden of proof. (Dennis Larson, Rose Real Estate, Inc. and Diversified Commercial Real Estate v. Peter N. Karagan; Rose Real Estate v. Peter N. Karagan, 2002). In all criminal cases, the state must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher burden of proof.
It is important to be aware that there are also “victimless” crimes, such as dealing or manufacturing controlled substances/drugs, and selling, distributing or exhibiting pornography. Victimless crimes are punishable with the same severity as offenses to the person. Sometimes “victimless” crimes are higher level crimes. There are three categories for all offenses in Indiana: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Felonies are the most serious. Indiana law lists these as D (being the lowest) to a Class A felony being the highest (murder). In 2104, this will change to numerical levels (1 through 6).
An infraction is a violation of an ordinance or statute that does not subject an offender to a criminal conviction or jail time, such as a speeding ticket or ordinance violation. A misdemeanor rarely results in jail time. A misdemeanor is a less serious crime and one that is punishable by no more than one year of incarceration.
The most serious crimes are classified as felonies. A felony is generally a crime punishable by more than one year of incarceration in a prison or jail. Conviction of a felony has life-long implications, such as being prohibited from possessing firearms and many employers will not hire convicted felons. So these should be treated seriously, and viewed in the larger picture of one’s entire life.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime that is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, it is always a good idea to consult and retain criminal lawyers Indianapolis immediately–to make the most of your defense. A large number of cases can have good defenses that can be developed. This may lend itself to a more favorable plea due to weaknesses in the state’s case or acquittal at trial. These are matters your criminal defense attorney will discuss with you in detail to analyze.
An Indianapolis criminal defense attorney understands criminal law and ensures that all of your civil and criminal constitutional rights are protected. For example, a criminal defense attorney will understand that a person charged with a crime has a right to a speedy trial (if you are incarcerated and cannot make bond) that is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as Article I, Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution (State v. Penwell, 2007).
If you are charged with a crime, hiring an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney is an important step to begin your defense and resolve this chapter in your life. Each lawyer has a certain level of experience, style and approach to the law. It is important not only to find someone that is qualified to handle your case, but also someone with whom you are comfortable and with whom you can communicate openly and honestly. Your choice of a criminal lawyer should be given most serious consideration. In criminal matters, the earlier you consult and retain an attorney, the greater protection you will receive when it comes to locating and/or preserving exculpatory evidence and asserting your rights.
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