Criminal law involves the prosecution of a person or business for conduct that breaches the common good or causes social harm. The public nature of criminal law distinguishes it from civil law, where the wrong is limited to individual parties. In our system, crimes are defined by common law (law developed by historical judicial decisions) or, more frequently, by statute or enactments of a jurisdiction’s legislature.
Every crime is composed of “essential elements”. For example, in Vermont, one variant of DUI is committed when: a person, operates, a motor vehicle, on a public highway, with an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. Thus, at trial, the State would have to introduce evidence sufficient to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that each of those elements occurred at the same time and place. If the State was unable to prove even one of those elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury would have to find the accused NOT GUILTY.