Criminal law encompasses a wide variety of offenses and crimes. It sets out the punishment for each crime according to its severity. It also describes the rules of an investigation, court proceedings, procedures, and handing out sentences. Each State in the US has particular rules for sentencing limits according to each criminal offense. Criminal law is a complex domain that requires the expertise of a professional criminal lawyer.

What characterizes a crime?

In criminal law, crimes are categorized as follows:

1. Felonies

The term “felonies” deals with a wide variety of crimes. Crimes that result in a sentence of more than a year in prison is a felony.

Felonies deal with crimes that result in harming a person. Murder is also a felony. The length of the sentence depends on the severity of a felony. Since a felony involves assaulting an individual, a criminal may also have a weapon.

A felony also includes fraud, bribing, and tax evasion crimes. These crimes may not result in the harming of an individual. However, these crimes involve wrongdoing and fraud, fooling individuals and organizations.

2. Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are less severe crimes that have a maximum sentence of one year in jail. Such criminal offenses include theft, property damage, reckless driving, vandalism, etc. Repeated misdemeanors may result in the crime elevated to felony status.

In addition to prison sentencing, other forms of punishments handed out to criminals with misdemeanors are community service and fines. Depending on the severity of the crime, the criminal may face charges involving one, two, or all three of these punishments.

3. Infractions

Infractions are minor offenses that include administrative violations. Traffic violations are an example of infractions. These do not result in any prison sentencing. However, the offender has to pay a fine to rid themselves of the charge. Infractions are not classified as a crime. However, any offender that has committed an infraction may have come in contact with criminal law. For instance, traffic police may pull over an offender due to a violation.

Criminal vs. Civil Law

Criminal law and civil law are exclusive branches of law. Different sets of punishment are given in each type of law.

Criminal law is the law that governs various crimes, criminals, and punishment dealing with it. The government or the state files a case against the offender. On the contrary, civil law is a conflict between individuals and organizations. Civil law cases include employee-employer, landlord-tenant conflict, etc. Any private party has the right to file a case against the wrongdoer. An individual, organization, or company can also file a civil law case.

The striking difference between criminal law and civil law is the punishment handed out. The punishment in criminal law includes prison sentences. However, in the case of infractions, it may not be so. In criminal law, the offender has to provide compensation to the victim for injuries and damages. The wrongful party has to provide payment to the plaintiff.

Since criminal cases are more serious, defendants have more rights and protection than those in civil cases.

Another difference between criminal and civil cases is that of the burden of proof. In criminal law cases, the state and the government have to provide evidence against a person. Whereas, in civil law cases, the plaintiff has the first right to provide proof against the defendant. Once the plaintiff’s evidence is there, the defendant then provides evidence against the plaintiff.


The purpose of criminal law is to maintain law and order in a state or country. It ensures to look after public interests. In some cases, it also provides rehabilitation to criminals to ensure that they can become valuable members of society in the future.