Today, every act is defined by legality or illegality. The modern American justice system has evolved to encompass all facets of life and human interaction. As such, there are many ways to get in trouble and there are also many ways to stay out of it.
Knowing exactly what is legal and what isn’t is immeasurably valuable if you are going to stay out of trouble here. If one were new to the country, the system of laws in place may best be described to them as being completely based on personal responsibility. In other words, be aware, be considerate, and cause no harm for others, and you will be just fine.
Beyond such simplistic explanation, the American justice system can be described as holding two main classifications for crime: violent crime and non-violent crime. And although a list of individual crimes under these categories would take many pages and days to read, we will continue to break-down the system in easy to understand chunks.
Violent crimes are those that include an element of violence. Battery, assault, murder, intimidation, and anything else involving an air of violence can fall into this category. Violent crimes are often punished with stronger consequences than non-violent ones.
Non-violent crimes are also as numerous as one can imagine. Drug-use and possession, property damage, theft, bribery, and fleeing the police are all examples of non-violent ways to get into trouble. Non-violent crimes are punished based on the severity of the act, statutory guidelines, and several other factors.
At the point of being charged with a crime, the next step allows the accused party a chance to defend itself in court. From here, prosecuting criminal attorneys square off with defense attorneys via courtroom showdown, each trying to prove or disprove evidence, and thus the case for or against the accused. However, it is important to note jurisdictional influence in such proceedings.
Unless the crime in question is a federal crime, the state it was committed in has jurisdiction and therefore will hear the case. Each state has its own unique laws and approaches to these laws. A criminal attorney may be able to argue a point that a New Mexico criminal defense attorney could not. Drug cases and Arizona drug possession laws handled may be completely different from those upheld in Virginia.
The best advice one could receive is to become aware of the laws and their underlying value-set. Ignorance does not constitute defense in the American system of law. Be courteous and cause no problems for others, and chances are you will be operating within the law.