What is a crime? It is a social harm that the law makes punishable. There are two basic kinds of crime- felonies and misdemeanors. How do they differ? A felony is punishable by death, or a year or more of imprisonment. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes punishable by fine, forfeiture, penalty, or a brief confinement somewhere other than prison, like county jail or house of correction.

Criminal lawsuits are initiated by the government, by a prosecutor, either federal or state. The standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That means the prosecutor must prove the case to the jury such that each juror is sure the defendant is guilty “to a moral certainty.” This differs from civil lawsuits wherein the standard of proof is “preponderance of the evidence,” or just tilt the scales 51% in your favor.

You have certain rights when accused of a crime. Among them are the right to remain silent, the right to a speedy trial, to confront the witnesses against you, to have the government provide a way for you to make witnesses come testify on your behalf, and the right to an attorney at all critical stages of your case. Most importantly, you have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty by the government beyond a reasonable doubt. The criminal defense attorney’s job is to protect your rights while your case is open.