The governance of a set of codified laws, rules, and regulations is what separates civilized societies from the uncivilized.
This becomes more important in democracies where rational logic, patterns, and an independent judiciary are present for the orderly conduct of the society.
While the criminal legal system that we see today is highly complex and requires the assistance of criminal lawyers in Virginia, its humble beginning was far from being complex.
For most individuals and aspiring law students that want to understand how we arrived at this juncture, it would be best if we delved a little into history.
What we see today is the result of thousands of years of continuous evolution between what was considered wrong and what was deemed right. In this article, we are going to discuss the origins of criminal defense laws.
The History of Criminal Law: The Exact Origins
Records and documentations show that the first written and codified body of law was first created by the Sumerians in 2100 BC. Sumeria was a geographical location that is now present-day Iraq. They created two different types of documents that can be put under the heads of civil and criminal laws.
In Europe, the earliest signs of any codified structure of law can be traced to the Duke of Normandy’s invasion of England. William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066. Following this, the first traces of criminal law in various accounts have been reported.
However, the most formal and established body of criminal law, one whose form and function that we still use in current times came into force when the English Common Law was born in the 18th century. Common-Law set up two divisions between Civil and Criminal Laws.
Over time, English Common Law came to be adopted and altered by different nations and regions all over the world. By a regular process of contributing to the body of laws, English Judges were able to build a comprehensive body of law.
The Establishment of Criminal Law in the United States of America
After Christopher Columbus formally discovered America in 1492, the period was followed by America becoming a colony of the British Empire. The British introduced their Common Law in America and put in place a body of judges that would try the citizens for breaches of both civil and criminal cases.
The US Constitution that came into being in 1789 borrowed heavily from English Common Law. The Founding Members of the Constitution set in place an independent and autonomous Supreme Court as the higher interpreter of the legal system of the country.
The present body of law that we now see in the United States is an interpretation of English Common Law. In fact, modern bodies of legal systems in most democracies of the world have been borrowed and reinterpreted on English Common Law.
Three Types of Legal Cases in the United States of America
According to legal experts, in the USA legal body, there are three main types of lawsuits or cases that can be filed with the appropriate authorities-
1. Misdemeanor Lawsuit–
The first category of legal cases refers to the least serious of civil crimes. In such cases, cases are settled by paying a nominal fine or the forfeiture of property. These are cases that are disposed of in a fast and effective manner.
Felonies are classified as serious offenses that often result in stern punishments. Several white-collar crimes, assault charges, drug busts, and crimes that are considered detrimental to society classify as felonies. The conviction here results in jail time at state or federal prisons.
Treason was earlier classified as ‘War Crimes’. In its modern connotation, it refers to crimes against the country. This may be in the form of selling defense secrets or engaging in acts according to the wishes of the representatives of some other country.
The Bottom Line
In this article, we have tried to discuss and identify the origins of the modern criminal legal systems. As you can see from the article, evolution has taken place over thousands of years. A body of law can never be complete or static. It always evolves and adapts to the needs of the changing society where it needs to be practiced.