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Criminal Law

Criminal cases are based on charges made by prosecutors when someone violates a criminal statute. Either the state or federal government acts as the opposing party in a criminal case, unlike civil cases, where both parties are private entities.

Criminal charges are generally categorized as felonies or misdemeanors. This depends on the nature of the crime. Most people who face criminal charges will have their case go through a state court. But, in some circumstances, an individual can be brought up on federal charges.

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Felonies and Misdemeanors

A felony involves serious misconduct that is punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one year. Most state criminal laws divide felonies into different subcategories with varying degrees of punishment. Crimes that do not amount to felonies are typically called misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is misconduct for which the law prescribes punishment of no more than one year in prison. Lesser offenses, such as traffic and parking tickets, are often called infractions.


Criminal Laws in Your State

Criminal cases vary based on a number of factors specific to the charges and your state's unique laws. Find your state below to learn more specific laws.

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When Do I Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?

A qualified criminal defense attorney is often a crucial advocate for anyone charged with a crime. These attorneys are very familiar with local criminal procedures and laws – some may have even first worked as prosecutors. Most defense lawyers should be able to handle any misdemeanor or low-level crime. But not all lawyers are qualified to handle serious charges. Some courts don't allow inexperienced attorneys to represent defendants facing capital punishment, for example.


Search your state for criminal defense attorneys, then narrow down the attorney options by your city and preferences in FindLaw's Attorney Directory.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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