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criminal law

One of two general types of law practiced in the US (the other is civil law); "a formal means of social control {that uses }rules...interpreted {and enforced} by the set limits to the conduct of the citizens, to guide the officials, and to define...unacceptable behavior.

penal code

the criminal law of a political jurisdiction


a violation of a civil law

civil law

One of two general types of law practiced in the US (the other is criminal law); a means of resolving conflicts between individuals. It includes personal injury claims (torts), the law of contracts and property, and subjects such as administrative law and the regulation of public utilities.

substantive law

The body of law that defines criminal offenses and their penalties.

procedural law

the body of law that governs the ways substantive laws are administered; sometimes called adjective or remedial law.

due process of law

the rights of people suspected of or charged with crimes.


an ideal characteristic of criminal law, referring to its legitimate source. Only violations of rules made by the state, the political jurisdiction that enacted the laws, are crimes.


An ideal characteristic of criminal law, referring to its scope. Although civil law may be general in scope, criminal law should provide strict definitions of specific acts.


An ideal characteristic of criminal law; the applicability of the law to all persons, regardless of social status.


An ideal characteristic of criminal law; the enforcement of the laws against anyone who violates them, regardless of social status

penal sanction

an ideal characteristic of criminal law; the principle that violators will be punished or at least threatened with punishment by the state.


a decision that forms a potential basis for deciding the outcomes of similar cases in the future; a by-product of decisions made by trial and appellate court judges, who produce case law whenever they render a decision in a particular case.

stare decisis

The principle of using precedents to guide future decisions in court cases; Latin for "to stand by decided cases."


explorations or inspections, by law enforcement officers, of homes, premises, vehicles, or persons, for the purpose of discovering evidence of crimes or persons who are accused of crimes


the taking of persons or property into custody in response to violations of the criminal law.


a written order from a court directing law enforcement officers to conduct a search or to arrest a person.


the seizure of a person or the taking of a person into custody, either actual physical custody, as when a suspect is handcuffed by a police officer, or constructive custody, as when a person peacefully submits to a police officer's control


an illegal substance or object

mere suspicion

the standard of proof with the least certainty; "gut feeling." With mere suspicion, a law enforcement officer cannot legally even stop a suspect

reasonable suspicion

a standard of proof that is more than a gut feeling. It includes the ability to articulate reasons for the suspicion. With reasonable suspicion, a law enforcement officer is legally permitted to stop and frisk a suspect


conducting a search for weapons by patting the outside of a suspect's clothing, feeling for hard objects that might be weapons

probable cause

the amount of proof necessary for a reasonably intelligent person to believe that a crime has been committed or that items connected with criminal activity can be found in a particular place. It is the standard of proof neeeded to conduct a search or to make an arrest.

preponderance of evidence

evidence that more likely than not outweighs the opposing evidence, or sufficient evidence to overcome doubt or speculation.

clear and convincing evidence

the standard of proof required in some civil cases and, in federal courts, the standard of proof necessary for a defendant to make a successful claim of insanity

beyond a reasonable doubt

the standard of proof necessary to find a defendant guilty in a criminal trial

exclusionary rule

the rule that illegally seized evidence must be exc luded form trials in federal courts

double jeopardy

the trying of a defendant a second time for the same offense when jeopardy attached in the first trial and a mistrial was not declared.


being a witness against oneself. If forced, it is a violation of the Fifth Amendment


an admission by a person accused of a crime that he or she committed the offense charged

doctrine of fundamental fairness

the rule that makes confessions inadmissible in criminal trials if they were obtained by means of either psychological manipulation or 'third-degree" methods


the place of the trial. It must be geographically appropriate


a written order issued by a court that requires a person to appear at a certain time and polace to give testimony. It can also require that documents and objects be made availabe for examination by the court.

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