'Criminal Law' is often known as the Penal Law which includes various bodies of rules (in different jurisdictions) and is characterized by imposition of punishment for failure to comply the law. Any act which is considered as dangerous or damaging to citizens or the society as a whole is marked as crime and is made punishable. The foremost civilizations of the world did not draw any distinction between the civil and criminal law. It was only during the Norman Invasion of England a perceptible indication of distinction between crimes and civil matters have come to the fore. The States started the practice of dispensing criminal justice through courts in the eighteenth century when the European countries began maintaining police services. Following this development, the criminal justice mechanisms for enforcement was formalized by the states conferring a distinct entity to the development of criminal justice system. There are some widely accepted objectives for enforcement of criminal law by punishments, namely, Retribution, Deterrence, Incapacitation and Rehabilitation.
In the United States, criminal prosecutions are initiated by complaint issued by a judge or indictment issued by a grand jury. The Federal requirement of indictment does not apply to all the states. Grand jury indictments are not applied in the states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington and the District of Columbia. Under the provisions of the sixth amendment of the United States Constitution, a criminal defendant has been granted the right to a speedy and public trial in both State and Federal courts by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime was committed, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confront and cross examine the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for enforcing the attendance of witnesses in his favor and to have the assistance of Counsel for his defense. A prosecuting attorney represents the interests of the state whereas the defendant may defend himself in person and may act as his own attorney, if desired.
In England, the sources of Criminal law include Common law, law of European Union and independent statutes. The offences are classified as indictable and summary offences. The hierarchy of courts for criminal trial consists of Magistratesí Courts, Crown Courts, High Courts, Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.