Wednesday, July 30, 2014

101 Things

An Author Needs to Know

About the Police and the Law

What is a crime?

A crime is a misdemeanor or a felony.  Violations and infractions are not defined as crimes, and as such generally result in citations (parking or speeding tickets) and fines.  There are no common law crimes, meaning your character can't be arrested for bad behavior unless said behavior breaks a written law, such as lewd  behavior in public or disorderly conduct.  Examples of non-arrestable and non-finable bad behavior might include emotional abuse, cruelty, or cheating. 

Only the legislature can create laws (criminal statutes).  The courts and the police cannot create a new crime.  Oftentimes in court the judge will explain the law associated with the crime to the jury and add that although the jury may not agree with the law, say a marijuana charge, it is their duty to uphold the laws of the state as they are written today.

You can only be convicted if the state/commonwealth can prove you committed each and every element of the crime.  That's important.  Each and every element.  Failure to do so will result in an acquittal.

According to

"Four key components must be present: intent, conduct, concurrence, and causation. Without one of these elements, a case can start to fall apart. This fact explains why sometimes the defense will freely admit to something which seems incriminating, only to still win the case; it accepts that one element was present, but denies other elements of a crime and uses these to deconstruct the prosecution's case.

For example intent, also known as mens rea or “guilty mind,” requires someone to intend to commit a crime, and to have the mental capacity to have intent. For example, someone who plans to commit a  robbery clearly meets the condition of intent. If the robber hits and kills a pedestrian with the car on the way to the robbery, however, the robber cannot be charged with murder because he or she did not intend to kill the pedestrian. The pedestrian is still dead, of course, and the robber will be liable for manslaughter."


Tamara said...

This is super, Jody. It really breaks it down in laymen's terms and makes it understandable and easy to read.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Tamara. Thanks, that's nice to hear. I'm so used to it, I forget how mysterious and/or confusing it can appear. It would be like me writing about a hospital operating room... totally lost.

Chris said...

I guess the skill for the Prosecution Service is deciding precisely what to charge the suspect with in the first place, so that there can be no wriggling out of things on a technicality. Interesting reading, Jody, thanks for taking the time to do this.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. Even if the prosecutor takes the case and settles on what he/she thinks is a winning situation, the defense attorney then gets to do his magic. That is what a Motion to Suppress is all about. Let's say drugs were found in the car after the cops stopped the guy for speeding. The defense may very well challenge the police officer, saying the stop was 'no good', questioning how the speed was calculated or even challenging when the radar was last inspected and certified. They may say the search was illegal, that they should have only given him a ticket and had no right to search his car, etc. Sometimes its the passenger who gets arrested for drugs in the car. The defense will argue that his client had no knowledge. If the defense gets his motion granted by the judge, then that's one of the critical elements the prosecution just lost and the case may very well be thrown out because now they can't use the drugs found in the trial, or prove the guy had knowledge and intent. Sometimes it's all in the skill of your attorney.

Chris said...

Things could well be different here in the UK, of course, as our stop and search laws came into force after the London bombings. It's still more like a game of chess than upholding the law when it comes to the courts though. I suppose that's why lawyers get paid so much, for the knowledge they bring and how skilfully they use it.