Navigating the Complexities of Criminal Law: What You Need to Know

February 29 2024

When someone commits a crime, the criminal law system is typically involved. Depending on the case, a person may commit an offense under civil law or under criminal law. However, when it comes to both civil and criminal offenses, they are governed by the same laws and rules. 

The criminal justice system is made up of two separate yet intertwined processes: investigation and prosecution. Each stage involves different roles. Let’s take a look at what those roles are, as well as what happens during each step in this process.

What is Criminal Investigation?

Criminal investigation is a process in which law enforcement officers collect evidence, analyze the collected evidence, and build their case. Law enforcement officers may be involved in investigating crimes that have occurred or are alleged to have happened. 

Criminal investigations typically begin with a police officer who investigates a crime. The investigation process often starts with interviews of witnesses or people involved in the case, followed by taking evidence from these sources. The investigating officer will then look for physical evidence that can prove or disprove their hypothesis about what happened. This evidence can be found as fingerprints, DNA, tire tracks, etc., which are analyzed and compiled into a report for use in court proceedings.

In order to complete criminal investigations, law enforcement officers use surveillance techniques during the course of their investigations. This includes things like tailing suspects, checking social media accounts for activity, and conducting interviews. During criminal investigations, law enforcement can use either a search warrant or a subpoena to obtain information from individuals or businesses. 

They may also use an administrative subpoena. In some cases, law enforcement can conduct electronic surveillance on suspects without a warrant or subpoena if they suspect that there is probable cause for doing so and that it is not likely to place any person under undue burden or provide any evidence already available through other lawful means. 

The investigation officer will then make an arrest if they believe the individual committing the crime is entitled to one. This person could then be charged with a crime and dealt with by the courts. The arrested person could go to trial to determine if they are guilty or innocent of the accused crime.

What is Prosecution?

Prosecution is the phase of the criminal justice process where a person is charged as an accused individual. A prosecutor is an attorney that represents and advocates for the state in criminal cases, meaning that they argue against the defense’s case. They have the power to file charges against someone, or to offer them a plea deal in exchange for mitigating factors such as time served or community service. 

During this stage, prosecutors are typically tasked with filling out documents, such as plea deals and indictments. They can also file motions to obtain evidence from suspects, submit discovery requests to defendants, and take other actions in order to lead to a conviction or acquittal on behalf of their client. 

In a criminal trial, it is the prosecution who brings the case forward and files charges against another person. Thus, it is the prosecution’s responsibility to prove to the jury that there is enough evidence to convict the defendant. 

What is Defense?

Defense as a legal term describes when an individual protects their own interests. The purpose of the defense is to avert criminal conviction by contesting the claims brought against the defendant by the prosecution. 

The defendant is the person accused of the crime, and the defense is the legal team that is backing that person.

The defendant will typically have a defense lawyer on their team. This attorney will help build the case to prove that the defendant is not guilty of the crimes, or they will defend their client’s case to advocate for a lower sentence. 

The defense team must prove that the prosecution’s claims are false or not as robust to convict the defendant. 

What is the Burden of Proof?

The burden of proof in a criminal hearing means the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crimes accused. In simpler terms, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt. It’s important to note that the defendant does not have to prove their innocence because the Constitution states that people are innocent until proven guilty. 

During the trial, the prosecution will present evidence and bring forward witnesses to prove their case and show the defendant is guilty. The defendant can bring forward their own witnesses and cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses to poke holes in the prosecution’s case. 

The Criminal Trial

Once the two legal teams have developed their cases, the trial can begin. During the trial, both the prosecution and defense will bring forward their evidence and witnesses and address the judge and jury. Read more about the criminal trial and criminal procedure here

The Final Sentencing Hearing

The sentencing hearing is the last step in the criminal justice system. At this point, a judge will consider all of the evidence and information that was gathered throughout the investigation and prosecution, as well as other factors such as rehabilitation and potential for re-offending. The judge will then determine whether or not to sentence someone to prison time, probation, or other punishments.

Learn More Today

This article provides an overview of the general procedures involved in criminal law. Such procedures include criminal investigation, prosecution, defense, burden of proof, and sentencing. Overall, criminal law is a complicated field of legal practice, but with the right help you can easily navigate it.

For more information on criminal law and legal defense, contact our skilled attorneys at Hanlon Law Clearwater today. 

Hanlon Law
600 Cleveland St #1100
Clearwater, FL 33755
(727) 897-5413

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Attorney Will Hanlon
Attorney Will Hanlonhttps://www.criminalattorneytampa.net/
As a native Floridian and criminal defense attorney, my family history in Tampa spans generations. Since being admitted to The Florida Bar almost 20 years ago, I founded Hanlon Law and have gained extensive legal experience in criminal courtrooms in and around Tampa and throughout Florida.

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