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Criminal law: What constitutes a crime?

There is no simple answer to the question of what constitutes a crime. The criminal justice system includes federal, state and local laws. Federal laws are passed by the U.S. Congress, and apply to people nationwide. State, city and county governing bodies in California pass local laws or ordinances, some of which also denote violations of criminal law. 

Crimes are typically classified as violent or property crimes, but there are also some that fall in neither of these two categories. Any action that causes harm, attempts to harm, threatens to harm or conspires to harm another person could be regarded as violent. This includes the use of force, or threats to use force to commit homicide, robbery or rape. In contrast, property crimes are actions that damage or destroy property, and include stealing or vandalizing property or vehicles.

However, some laws involve neither violence or property damage such as traffic laws. Any driver who runs a red light breaks the law, even though it involves no property damage or violence, it could cause injuries or property damage. It must also be noted that claiming to be unaware of an existing law is not a valid defense, and in some cases, inaction can lead to criminal charges. An example is neglecting to seek medical care or attention for someone who clearly needs it.

Anyone in Colorado who has questions about crimes or who is facing criminal charges can get answers and explanations of legal options from an experienced criminal law attorney. A lawyer can assess the circumstances and scrutinize any charges that were filed. Regardless of the type of crime, or whether a person is accused of violating federal, state or local laws, the attorney will work to get charges dismissed or reduced in order to get the best possible outcome for the client.

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