Unlike civil law, which concerns disputes between individuals and/or organizations seeking redress (money damages) for wrongful conduct, criminal law is the body of law dealing with persons being prosecuted by the government for acts classified as crimes. With the exception of strict liability crimes, most crimes are comprised of two basic elements: (1) a criminal act ("act reus"); and a mental state ("mens rea"), which refers to a defendant's intent.
Crimes are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. A misdemeanor is less serious and typically the accused will only face a small amount of jail time, fines, and possibly some treatment. Under Montana law, however, misdemeanors can carry up to one year in jail and significant financial obligations. In turn, they should not be taken lightly. Misdemeanors include traffic violations, petty theft, DUIs, and possession of a small amount of marijuana. Felonies are far more serious and punishable by one or more years of imprisonment, such as rape, grand theft, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and homicide/murder.
In criminal law, 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. The prosecutor in a criminal law, however, has to prove to the judge or jury "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged.
You are innocent until you are proven guilty. This burden rests entirely on the government, and the accused is not required to prove anything. An experienced criminal law attorney may inform you that the government does not have enough evidence to prove your guilt. For more information about your specific case, contact Paul Ryan & Associates Attorneys at Law to discuss your legal options.
Generally, a client will get better results by retaining a criminal defense attorney as soon as the government files charges or begins its investigation. Do not take a wait-and-see approach to a criminal situation. Most importantly, do not seek answers to questions about your rights and legal status from police officers and prosecutors who have no obligation to act in a suspect's best interest.
A serious criminal charge can have a defendant fighting for his or her fundamental freedom. Do not gamble while your freedom is at stake! Contact Paul Ryan & Associates Attorneys at Law today and let us stand up for your legal rights and fight for your exoneration.