Author: Joyce Buda


Chapter 6 from Advanced Business Law and the Legal Environment was adaptedby The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0license without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. © 2014, The Saylor Foundation.Chapter 6Criminal LawL EA R N IN G O B JEC T IV ESAfter reading this chapter, you should be able to do the following:1. Explain how criminal law differs from civil law.2. Categorize the various types of crimes and define the most serious felonies.3. Discuss and question the criminal “intent” of a corporation.4. Explain basic criminal procedure and the rights of criminal defendants.At times, unethical behavior by businesspeople can be extreme enough that society will respond bycriminalizing certain kinds of activities. Ponzi schemes, arson, various kinds of fraud, embezzlement,racketeering, foreign corrupt practices, tax evasion, and insider trading are just a few. A corporation canface large fines, and corporate managers can face both fines and jail sentences for violating criminal laws.This chapter aims to explain how criminal law differs from civil law, to discuss various types of crimes,and to relate the basic principles of criminal procedure.Saylor URL: http://www.saylor.org/booksSaylor.org2586.1 The Nature of Criminal LawCriminal law is the most ancient branch of the law. Many wise observers have tried to define and explainit, but the explanations often include many complex and subtle distinctions. A traditional criminal lawcourse would include a lot of discussions on criminal intent, the nature of criminal versus civilresponsibility, and the constitutional rights accorded the accused. But in this chapter, we will consideronly the most basic aspects of intent, responsibility, and constitutional rights.Unlike civil actions, where plaintiffs seek compensation or other remedies for themselves, crimes involve“the state” (the federal government, a state government, or some subunit of state government). This isbecause crimes involve some “harm to society” and not just harm to certain individuals. But “harm tosociety” is not always evident in the act itself. For example, two friends of yours at a party argue, take theargument outside, and blows are struck; one has a bloody nose and immediately goes home. The crimes ofassault and battery have been committed, even though no one else knows about the fight and the friendslater make up. By contrast, suppose a major corporation publicly announces that it is closing operations inyour community and moving operations to Southeast Asia. There is plenty of harm to society as the plantcloses down and no new jobs take the place of the company’s jobs. Although the effects on society aregreater in the second example, only the first example is a crime.

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