Criminal law entails punishment and rehabilitation of individuals who violate laws relating to crime. The subject mainly deals with crimes with an end goal being the restoration of justice to the victim and punishment to the offender. Criminal law is different from civil law in that the latter mostly emphasize compensation and dispute resolution while the former emphasizes punishment and rehabilitation. If you have been looking for a criminal lawyer or to learn more about criminal law, check out Norwood Law Firm here! Below we explore everything you need to know about criminal law.

Criminal Law Is Distinct From Other Types Of Law

Unlike other areas such as business law, family law, and civil law, criminal law is distinctive due to the unique and severe consequences and sanctions that accompany criminal activities. For severe crimes, capital punishment or life imprisonment could be imposed, and this aims to deter other members of society against such crimes. Incarceration is another serious punishment, especially if it's lengthy. Incarceration may be solitary, which means the offender spends time alone, and this worsens if you are imprisoned for life with no intention of ever coming out again. Other forms of punishment include hefty fines, corporal punishment, and house arrest.

Secondly, unlike other areas of specialization in the law field, a crime is considered against the state even if it's perpetrated against an individual. In prosecuting crimes, it's the offender against the state, and the prosecution is therefore done by the state. Civil cases involve disputes between individuals and thus fall under civil lawsuits. Other differences include the type of punishment, the standard of proof, and the entitlements. For instance, a defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney, unlike in a civil case.

Constitutional Rights in Criminal Law

Considering criminal law is between the state and the accused, there’s a power imbalance. To avoid the accused from being treated unfairly, they are granted some rights, which may vary from one state to another. These include:
i) The right to an attorney
ii) The right to a public and speedy trial
iii) The right not to incriminate oneself
iv)The right to an appeal

Classification of Crimes

Crimes are categorized differently depending on the severity. This ranges from infractions, misdemeanours, and felonies. This classification is very crucial since it influences the procedure of a criminal charge and the consequent sentencing.

An Infraction

This is a petty offence which in most cases is not considered criminal but a civil offence. To the extreme, serving in a local jail is considered an appropriate punishment instead of incarceration.


A misdemeanour is a crime considered less serious than a felony but of more weight than an infraction. It is generally fined or punishable through incarceration in local jails. Crimes falling under misdemeanour include petty theft, simple assault, shoplifting, disorderly conduct, and other low-level offenses.


A felony is classified as the most serious of criminal offenses. The punishment is more severe, and criminals are incarcerated in higher security jails. Felonies include rape, murder, kidnapping, arson, and burglary.

The Objectives Of Criminal Law

There are five main objectives of criminal law as outlined below:


Criminal law aims at putting the offender at a disadvantage through punishment which is believed to be the primary goal of retribution. Since criminals take improper advantage to balance the scales, the law must subject them to an appropriate punishment. Retributive justice demands that the punishment is equal to the committed offence. Retribution is different from revenge in that it is not personal and is directed at the wrongdoing. It follows laid-out standard procedures with no pleasure at the suffering of others.


Judges and magistrates typically impose a sufficient penalty to discourage criminal behaviour. The penalty, therefore, deters the criminal from further crimes. This also acts as a measure to discourage others in society from such crimes.


This is through prison sentences that ensure an offender is kept away from society. The public is protected from a repetition of the particular misconduct. Other forms of incapacitation include a death sentence and banishment or sending an offender for exile with no hope of ever returning home.


The main goal of rehabilitating an offender is to convince them that their conduct was wrong and they can change to be valuable members of society. The process aims at transforming them into better and productive members of society.


Criminal law aims at restoring the victim to their original position before the crime was committed. Restoration mainly targets the victim to repair any damage caused by the offender. This includes compensation where applicable through state authority.