What are the Features of Criminal Law?

There are a number of features that are common to criminal law systems around the world. These include the following:

  1. criminal law is codified;
  2. there is a clear distinction between criminal and civil law;
  3. crimes are typically divided into categories (e.g., felonies and misdemeanors);
  4. crimes are defined in terms of actus reus (the guilty act) and mens rea (the guilty mind);
  5. causation is an important element in establishing liability;
  6. defenses to criminal charges may be available; and
  7. punishment for convicted offenders may take a variety of forms, including incarceration, fines, and community service.

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