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Basic facts of criminal law Idaho

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  • • Crimes are grouped under two specifications: felonies and misdemeanors. Misdemeanors include all offenses for which a punishment other than death or a term in the Idaho state prison prescribed by law.

    • Misdemeanors are punishable by fines, by short terms of imprisonment in the Ada County jail, or by both.

    • In order to be a crime, the act must usually be accompanied by general criminal intent-willfully and knowingly doing something that is wrong.

    • The accused must be shown to have the mental capacity to form a criminal intent, otherwise he cannot be held responsible.

    • In Idaho, juvenile court systems handle cases involving children under 18. In these courts, juveniles are tried as delinquent children rather than as criminal defendants.

    • A person who is legally insane cannot be criminally responsible.

    • Generally, voluntary intoxication from drugs or alcohol is no defense, but involuntary intoxication is.

    • Protection against double jeopardy-being prosecuted twice for the same crime- is a constitutional guarantee, but there are situations in which a person may legally be put in jeopardy twice. For example, if a person appeals his conviction and the appellate court sets it aside, he could then be prosecuted a second time for the same crime. Also, if a trial court grants a motion for a new trial, a convicted person may be tried again. Finally, if the court discharges the jury because it cannot reach a verdict or because a juror becomes ill, leaves without permission, or acts inappropriately, the accused may be tried asecond time.

    • The first step in a criminal prosecution is a complaint, or pleading, which shows the charge. The complaint serves to advise the accused of the charge and enables the magistrate to decide whether or not the accused should stand trial.

    • Generally a warrant is necessary to arrest a person who is accused of a crime. It must give the accused's name or, if unknown, it must describe him, and state the charge. A policeman can make a warrantless arrest for certain misdemeanors not committed in his presence when there is probable cause to believe the person arrested committed the crime- shoplifting, for example. He can make such an arrest in a public place- in a store or on the street-but he must obtain a warrant to arrest a person in his home.

    • A police officer may legally stop any person on foot or in a vehicle for investigation when he believes that a crime may be or has been committed.

    • Any person taken into custody must be warned, before questioning begins:

    (1) that he has a right to remain silent

    (2) that any statementmay be used against him

    (3) that he has a right to the presence of an attorney

    (4) that if he cannot afford a criminal defense lawyer, one will be appointed for him before any questioning takes place, if he so desires. (The foregoing is known as the Miranda rule.)

    • After the person accused of the crime is arrested, he is given a preliminary hearing before a judge or magistrate or brought before a grand jury or both. The main purpose of these proceedings is to determine whether an offense was committed and whether there is probable cause to believe the person accused committed it.

    • If probable cause is discovered, the accused person will be indicted and arraigned.

    • The accused person is arraigned when he is called to the bar of the court to answer the accusation and plead either guilty, nolo contendere (no contest), or not guilty.

    • If a defendant pleads guilty, he waives his right to a trial and submits himself to sentencing by the judge.

    • The plea of nolo contendere (nocontest) is an implied confession of guilt and the equivalent of a guilty plea. However, it leaves the defendant free to deny his guilt at any subsequent proceedings; the plea cannot beused against him.

    • When a defendant pleads not guilty to a criminal charge, the judge will set a date for the trial.

    • The right to a speedy trial is guaranteed by the Constitution. When the court decides that that right has been denied, the charges against the defendant will be completely dismissed.

    • The defendant has the constitutional right to a public trial.

    • The right to trial by jury applies only to serious crimes, not to petty offenses. At the trial, the prosecution must establish the guilt of the accused person beyond a reasonable doubt. It does so by presenting evidence- that is, by presenting documents and exhibits and examining witnesses.

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    • The accused person, in turn, presents evidence to refute the prosecution and to show his innocence. A top Boise criminal defense attorney also cross-examines the witnesses.

    • Besides denying that he committed the act, the accused person may also claim certain defenses that free him from blame in committing it. For example, self-defense could be a defense against a charge of murder.

    • Once all the evidence has been submitted and the prosecuting and criminal defense attorneys have made final statements summing up their cases, the jury deliberates and gives its verdict.

    • If the jury's verdict is guilty, the defendant is convicted and the judge will sentence him. In some states the jury may recommend or even determine punishment, but the judge always pronounces the sentence.

    • A motion may be brought to set aside the judgment, this may happen if important facts were kept out of the trial by fraud, duress, or mistake. These must be facts that would either have changed the outcome of the trial or have cast the defendant in a better light. If the motion is granted, a new trial is usually ordered.

    • There is no constitutional right to appeal every criminal conviction. A prisoner who believes he is being illegally held can always test the legality of his detention by petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus-the most basic right guaranteed by the Constitution which orders the person holding the prisoner to produce him in court and justify depriving him of his liberty.

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Legal Aid Articles

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  • Criminal Law Terms

    probable cause-

    Reasonable ground for suspicion, supported by circumstances strong enough to warrant a cautious man's belief that the law has been, or is being violated. A police officer must have probable cause to make an arrest or search.

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