Common Crimes: The Elements

There are two different areas of our legal system: Criminal Law and Civil Law. In California, crimes are usually defined by the California Penal Code. The prosecutor has the burden of proving all elements of a crime. A conviction for a crime requires that the prosecutor prove all elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

Crimes are offenses against the People of the State of California and are prosecuted by a governmental agency such as the District Attorney’s office, the Attorney General’s office, or a local City office. Crimes are punishable by death, imprisonment, fine, removal from office, or disqualification to hold an office of honor, trust or profit in the State. (Cal. Penal Code Section 15.)

Anatomy of a Criminal Proceeding

Although discussed above, a brief overview of what leads to a criminal conviction, from inception through verdict, is worth detailing. A criminal proceeding starts with an arrest by law enforcement personnel. After the arrest, the government agency (the District Attorney, the Attorney General or the City Prosecutor) decides whether a criminal complaint should be filed against the person. The criminal complaint sets forth the criminal charge and the basic facts to support the charge. The prosecutor then conducts a preliminary hearing in felony matters. The prosecutor must present sufficient evidence to establish the basic elements of the crime. If the judge determines there is enough evidence to require the Defendant to “answer” for the crime, the case proceeds to a jury trial. The jury decides the facts of the case. The judge applies the law in the case and a verdict is rendered.

Although many crimes occur every day, the security professional will only encounter a few different types of criminal activity. Each crime has certain elements that must be met in order to establish the crime that has been committed. The elements are like a cookbook recipe. All elements must be present to establish that the crime occurred. The security officer must know what elements are required for the crimes he/she encounters before a proper arrest may be made.

Some of the more common crimes a security officer are likely to encounter involve crimes to land and crimes against a person or their property.