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Definition of Criminal Law

Criminal law or penal law is the group of laws which outlines the processes and penalties for crimes committed against the public authority and run counter to public interest. They also establish the processes for the police, courts and other parts of the legal system to operate.

Common cases of criminal law including felonies and misdemeanors such as robbery, murder, kidnapping and rape, as opposed to civil crimes perpetrated against one party such as medical malpractice, personal injury or breach of contract.

Criminal laws are established by criminal codes. If a defendant is prosecuted for a crime under criminal laws they must be prosecuted and found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The penalties from crimes, as outlined by criminal laws and procedural laws, are used to deter additional crime as well as punish the criminal for their actions. Restitution may also be ordered in some cases to restore the victims of the crime.

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