The criminal code, which is Title 18 of the United States Code, is the compilation of both criminal and penal laws that serve to punish individuals who commit crimes against the State. This process was created as a method with which law enforcement agencies could both punish and deter U.S. citizens from criminal activity. The criminal code, which is also known as the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, is a set of laws that describe various criminal offenses as well as the maximum and minimum sentences that judges can enforce for those crimes.
If you’ve ever tried to research criminal law, then you know how confusing it is. The criminal code is codified (written) and organized by the Law Revision Council (a division of the House) and is updated on a regular basis. The entire U.S. code contains fifty permanent titles, which are subdivided into subtitles, parts, subparts, chapters, subchapters and sections, supposedly for easy reference. The Archivist receives bills from congress (which have already been passed and signed by the President) and he or she adds the bill to the code.
The criminal code, which is Title 18, is divided into five separate divisions:
This section of the criminal code details all of the crimes that can be committed in the United States – either on the state or federal level – and the circumstances that surround those crimes.
This section of the criminal code describes the methods with which law enforcement officers should deal with criminals of different offenses. Laws for questioning suspects, arresting offenders and everything else that happens between questioning and conviction are included here.
Prisons amp; Prisoners
This section of the criminal code deals with criminals who have been convicted and sent to prison. It describes the rights of prisoners as well as procedures for inmates and prison guards to follow.
Corrections amp; Youthful Offenders
This section of the criminal code deals with the corrections system as well as offenders under the age of eighteen. It discusses the Age of Consent, methods for rehabilitation of offenders and other topics.
Immunity of Witnesses
This section of the criminal code discusses the ability for prosecutors to offer immunity to witnesses who are willing to testify against other offenders.
You can find the criminal code in its entirety on the Internet at the website for Cornell’s Legal Information Institute as well as at FindLaw.com. You can also find an annotated version at Westlaw.com.
Studying the criminal code is one of the most difficult aspects of law, as it can be confusing for anyone who isn’t familiar with legal jargon. The criminal code is republished every six years by the Law Revision Council, although new items are added every year.