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Beyond the Headlines: How We Learn About Criminal Law

By Steven Tanner on June 04, 2013 10:02 AM

Most of us learn about criminal law through television crime dramas, which often get it wrong, and news stories (which still sometimes get it wrong). We especially enjoy reading cautionary tales of celebrities who have gone astray. It's hard to look away when, for example, pop star Justin Bieber is busted (again) for speeding, or Lindsay Lohan pleads guilty to reckless driving in exchange for a 90-day stint in rehab.

We also learn about criminal law when tragedy strikes. After the owner of four pit bulls that fatally mauled a jogger was charged with murder, our FindLaw Blotter blog described the different degrees of murder and how this may apply to the defendant's case.

So while the headlines grab our collective attention, it's helpful to know how regular people can defend against criminal charges and otherwise navigate the high stakes world of criminal law. That's where Learn About the Law's (LATL) Criminal Law section comes in.

Our news blogs scour the headlines and provide legal context to the day’s big events, but LATL gets down to brass tacks. Maybe you’ve been charged with a crime, but believe the evidence being used against you was illegally seized, or perhaps you want to learn about the alternatives to jail after your first offense. We don’t just give you the dry details of criminal laws and procedures, we’re here to help you learn how the law may apply to your own situation.

Knowing how our users search for information is key, since complex legal tutorials that fail to account for your real-life questions are useless. Listening to our users is an important part of what we do. Late last year, for instance, we took the most frequently asked questions from our FindLaw Answers forum and turned them into LATL articles. Here are a few that made it into our Criminal Law section:

We also keep our eyes open for emerging areas of law, long-term trends, topics we believe are important but underserved, and anything that may serve our predominantly non-attorney users of our consumer site. For instance, we decided to add an article on Stand Your Ground Laws in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Claims of self-defense are nothing new, and we already had similar content, but our research led us to believe we needed something more specific.

While getting a law degree and passing the bar exam requires countless hours of hard work, we all are subject to state and federal laws. That’s why we work hard to keep it clear and concise without insulting your intelligence, even if your favorite crime drama gets it wrong.

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