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The body of rules and regulations that define and specify the nature of and punishments for offenses of a public nature or for wrongs committed against the state or society, also called penal law. Criminal Law or penal law involves prosecution by the government of a person for and act that has been classified as a crime. It is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. There are four theories of criminal justice: punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. It is believed that by imposing sanctions for the crime, society can achieve justice and peaceable social order. Substantive criminal law describes what constitutes particular crimes, such as murder, rape, robbery, and assault. But why do we have Criminal Law, what is the purpose of it? Criminal Law is also called penal law. The people found guilty of violating criminal law are punished. Punishment is justified by the fact that the criminal intended the harm and is responsible for it. When punishment is imposed in a criminal case it is for one basic reason, and that is to hold the offender accountable for what they have done.
Well, imagine if we lived in a place that didn't have laws, people wouldn't know what to do with themselves, and they also wouldn't feel safe. No one would feel safe in anything that they do. Particularly laws regulate relationships between people and also between government agencies. The rule of law has also been called "the foundation of liberties in the Western world," for it means that due process that serves as a check on arbitrary state power. The American Bar Association notes that the rule of law includes these elements:
Freedom from private lawlessness provided by the legal system of a politically organized society
A relatively high degree of objectivity in the formulation of legal norms and a like degree of evenhandedness in their application
Legal ideas and juristic devices for the attainment of individual and group objectives within the bounds of ordered liberty
Substantive and procedural limitations on governmental power in the interest of the individual for the enforcement of which there are appropriate legal institutions and machinery.
President JFK said, "American's are free to disagree with the law, but not to disobey it; for a government of laws and not of men, no man, however prominent and powerful, no mob, however unruly or boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law."
Punishment for Criminal Law: After your trial, the court will impose its sentence on you for the crime that you have committed. The 8th Amendment however prohibits the court from subjecting the said offender to "cruel and unusual punishment." In other words the punishment must meet the crime. You can't be sentenced to 5 years in prison for a speeding ticket. But trying to figure out what punishment is permissible for the 8th Amendment is a very difficult task. People that are convicted of murder, have many different types of punishment, because they have various degrees of murder, and thus various types of sentencing is opposed. Habitual offenders are sometimes sentenced to longer sentences to help detour others from making the same mistakes.
With how rapidly our prisons are filling up, the criminal courts have turned to other kinds of sentencing. Probation is one of the more traditional alternatives, probation allows the person convicted of a crime to remain free, subject to restrictions imposed by the court. Example: a convict on probation may have to check in with a probation officer on a regular basis, and may not be allowed to leave the state. If they violate any restrictions they are brought back in and sentenced to their normal jail time, only certain people are eligible for probation depending on severity of crime and if they are a repeat offender. Also community service but community service is more used in misdemeanor offenses. Community service is sometimes granted when the convict has a high level of visibility to the public, such as movie stars, because the court feels they will do more good by cleaning up a roadway rather than time spent in jail.
Deterrence is one of the primary objects of Criminal Law primary purpose is to discourage members of society from committing criminal acts out of fear of punishment. The most powerful deterrent would be a criminal justice system that guaranteed with certainty that all persons who broke the law would be apprehended, convicted, and punished, and would receive no personal benefit from their wrongdoing. But does it really serve as a deterrent? Many philosophers, criminologists, judges, lawyers and others have debated whether and to what extend any criminal justice system actually serves as a deterrent. Deterrence requires the would-be criminal to possess some degree of reflective capacity before the crime is committed, at least enough reflection to consider the possible
Consequences of violating the law if caught. Since a lot of crimes are committed during the "heat of the moment", crimes of passion, crimes like that simply cannot be deterred, also people that commit crimes because it makes them feel good also can not be deterred, I don't think a lot of people can be deterred, if we could change the laws, and make them harsher to let people know that we aren't fooling around maybe then it could be a deterrence. Say we have a sex offender they can't be rehabilitated so why sentence them to jail/prison. Deterrence is one of the more "rational" goals of sentencing, it is easily articulated, and with harsher punishments you can deter some of the more minor criminals.
Retribution: the act of taking revenge on a criminal perpetrator, retribution is the earliest known rationale for punishment. Early punishments were immediate, often without benefit of a hearing. And they were often extreme. There was no does the punishment fit the crime. Death and exile were commonly imposed, even for minor offenses, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Maybe we should go back to that method it would also help deter people from doing certain crimes. If they knew that if they raped a child they would die, that would be HOPEFULLY deterrence for them. It would also help with prison the overcrowding in prison, and cost. We spend a lot of money every year housing prisoners, and people on death row. But we can't do that it's not a perfect world an unfortunately we can't keep even our own children safe, and you can't take the law into your own hands because you will be more than likely charged harsher than a person that has committed a crime against a child. Because if you target a certain type of person, it can be said or reasoned to believe it would be a "hate crime" or "bias crime".
F. Schmalleger: Criminal Justice Today (2009)