Each jurisdiction, federal, state, and local, creates laws that ban conduct thought to be harmful, in an effort to protect all members of society. A crime is an act, or failure to act, that violates these laws. If a crime is committed, the government prosecutes the actor or the person who had a duty to act and failed to do so. This is criminal law.
Criminal law, also known as “penal law,” encompasses the enforcement of these laws as well as the civil rights and applicable defenses of the accused and convicted. Punishment is doled out to rehabilitate the offender, deter harmful behavior by the offender and others, and to provide restitution to the injured and society, as a whole.
Serious crimes, typically punishable by imprisonment for at least a year, are called felonies. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes and are, typically, punishable by less than a year.
An act or failure to act can only be punished if it has been previously established as a crime. Federal crimes are listed in Title 18 of the United States Code and the state of Nevada’s Criminal Code is contained in Title 15 of the Nevada Revised Statutes.
To convict someone of a crime, government prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged with the crime actually committed the crime (an act or failure to act) with the requisite mens rea (mental state.)