English criminal law refers to the body of law in the jurisdiction of England and Wales which deals with crimes and their consequences, and which is complementary to the civil law of England and Wales.
Criminal acts are considered offences against the whole of a community. The state, in addition to certain international organizations, has responsibility for crime prevention, for bringing the culprits to justice, and for dealing with convicted offenders. The police, the criminal courts and prisons are all publicly funded services, though the main focus of criminal law concerns the role of the courts, how they apply criminal statutes and common law, and why some forms of behaviour are considered criminal.
Lopez v. Gonzales, 549 U.S. 47 (2006), held that an "aggravated felony" includes only conduct punishable as a felony under the federal Controlled Substances Act, regardless of whether state law classifies such conduct as a felony or a misdemeanor. Under federal law, there are two main consequences of having a prior conviction for an "aggravated felony." One is that, if the convicted person is an alien, he will be deported. The other is that, with respect to certain federal crimes, a prior conviction for an aggravated felony provides a sentencing enhancement. In this case, Lopez had been convicted of conduct that was a felony under South Dakota law but was a misdemeanor under federal law. Accordingly, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this conviction could not serve as a basis for deporting him.
Lopez entered the United States illegally in 1986, but became a lawful permanent resident in 1990. In 1997, he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the possession of cocaine in a South Dakota court, and served 15 months in prison. When he was released, the INS sought to deport him because, it claimed, he had been convicted of a controlled substances violation and an "aggravated felony." An Immigration Judge ordered him deported, and the Board of Immigration Appeals ultimately affirmed that decision. Lopez petitioned for review in the Eighth Circuit, which the court denied. Because there was a conflict in the federal courts of appeals on how to classify crimes such as Lopez's, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.