Criminal law involves a system of legal rules designed to keep the public safe and deter wrongful conduct. Those who violate the law face incarceration, fines, and other penalties. The American criminal justice system is both complex, and adversarial in nature. With the exception of minor traffic violations, accused individuals will require the assistance of an attorney.
Crimes of a more serious nature are classified as felonies. These carry punishments of a year or more in state or federal prison. Felonies include violent crimes like murder, burglary, and rape, as well as white collar crimes like embezzlement and money laundering.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) law, also referred to as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) law, refers to state statutes and municipal ordinances that make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle after consuming a specified amount of alcohol. These cases are criminal in nature, although they can involve civil penalties, such as a suspension of driving privileges. DUI laws often include prohibitions against driving under the influence of controlled substances as well.
A misdemeanor is an offense that the criminal justice system considers less serious than a felony. The offense is normally punishable by fines up to $1,000 and imprisonment for up to six months. Felony offenses are punishable by a year or more in prison. Misdemeanor sentences are typically served in a local jail.
Common misdemeanor charges include petty theft, disorderly conduct and shoplifting. Typical motor vehicle-related misdemeanors include first time DUI offenses, parking violations, exceeding the speed limit, running a red light or stop sign.
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