The History Of Criminal Law Criminology Essay

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The purpose of this research is to identify the purpose of criminal law by defining what criminal law is, the categories of criminal law, and the criminal processes. Criminal law focuses on the intent of the wrongdoer and concerned specifically with people that commit crimes. The objectives concerned with criminal law include protecting people's property, deterring criminal behavior, punishing criminal conduct, and rehabilitating criminals. Criminal acts are put into different categories in order for these crimes to be generalized. The categories that make up criminal law include violent crime, property crime, white-collar crime, public order crime, and organized crime. When these crimes occur, the criminal process ensures that justice will be served. The three phases in the criminal process include arrest, indictment, and trial. Our hope is that the reader will have a better understanding of what criminal law is and how it functions in our society.

Every year there are so many people fall victim to crime in the United States. We hear about crime almost every day in the media and it seems to be everywhere, but how is crime dealt with? The United States law is made up of set rules and regulations to ensure that everyone is protected and treated equally. Criminal law is specifically concerned with people that commit crimes and the legal process of how crimes are dealt with. The purpose of our report is to clearly describe criminal law by defining what criminal law is, the categories of criminal law and the criminal processes. By describing these things, you will have a better understanding of criminal law and where it fits into our society.


Common law is the Anglo-American's system of un-codified law in which judges follow precedents set by earlier decisions when they decide new but similar cases. The sources of criminal law are; constitutional law, statutory law, case law, and administrative law (Cole & Smith, 2007). Constitutional law is the written basic law(s) of a country or state that defines the structure of government and the relationship of citizens to that government. The constitution contains the basic principles and procedural safeguards and some of the amendments of the constitution have a direct bearing on criminal law (Cole & Smith, 2007). These Amendments are the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments. They guarantee the rights of due process, jury trial and representation by counsel, protection against unreasonable searches, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, and cruel and unusual punishment.

Statutory law involves laws passed by legislators. The statutory definitions of criminal offenses are found in penal codes (Cole & Smith, 2007). Statutory law includes substantive and procedural criminal law. Substantive criminal law defines acts that are subject to punishment and specifying the punishments for such offenses (Cole & Smith, 2007). Procedural criminal law defines the procedures that criminal justice officials must follow in enforcement, adjudication, and corrections. Case law includes the court decisions that have the status of law and serve as precedents for later decisions (Cole & Smith, 2007). Administrative law concerns rules made by government agencies to implement specific public policies in areas such as public health, environmental protection, and workplace safety.

Criminal law is not the same as civil law. A violation of criminal law is an offense against society as a whole, while civil law regulates relations between individuals (Cole & Smith, 2007). Criminal law focuses on the intent of the wrongdoer. Civil law centers on fixing the blame for the damage or harm. Civil law includes torts, which concerns compensation for damage to property or people's injuries. Criminal law and civil law both try to steer people to act in a desired manner by imposing costs on those who violate social rules (Cole & Smith, 2007). Civil lawsuits are being brought against offenders who were previously subject only to criminal charges. Civil law is also important for the criminal justice system because citizens can file lawsuits against police officers, correctional officers, and other government actors.

There are four main objectives when concerning criminal law. These objectives are to; protect persons and property, to deter criminal behavior, to punish criminal conduct, and to rehabilitate criminals (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Criminal law protects citizens from criminals who inflict physical harm onto others or take their worldly goods. Criminal law imposes specified punishment(s) to discourage or in the hopes to put other people off from committing the same crimes (Halas, 2010). Criminal law punishes criminals for their illegal behaviors or criminal conduct through sentencing, incarceration, community service, rehabilitation, probation, and/ or death. These punishments are to deter individuals from committing future crimes by taking them out of society. Criminal law rehabilitates criminals to improve the criminal for not only their benefit, but the benefit of society as a whole and to hopefully reduce the likelihood they will commit another crime.

The criminal law system is the entire criminal process itself, from the initial investigation and arrest, to the conviction and sentencing of the criminal. The criminal law system includes everyone involved in the process. These people are; the defendants, the police, judges, the attorneys, witnesses, and corrections officers (FindLaw, Thomson Reuters, 2012). Criminal law also reflects societal values. Criminal law is defined by elected representatives in state legislatures and Congress who makes choices about the behaviors that the government will punish (Cole & Smith, 2007). These behaviors are considered mala in se and mala prohibita. Mala in se means crimes that are wrong in themselves such as murder, rape, and assault. These crimes are seen as so harmful they must be punished (Cole & Smith, 2007). Mala prohibita are crimes because they are prohibited by the government and not because they are wrong in themselves (Cole & Smith, 2007). These crimes include gambling, prostitution, drug use, and assisted suicide.


As there are so many different crimes that can be committed, crimes have been categorized and put into specific classifications. Federal, state, and local laws provide for the classification and punishment of hundreds of thousands of different criminal acts (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Crimes are put into different categories in order to generalize different crimes. These include violent crime, property crime, public order crime, white-collar crime, and organized crime.

Violent crimes involve crimes which are committed against people that cause them to suffer harm or death. Some examples of violent crime include murder, assault and battery, sexual assault, rape, and robbery (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Violent crimes are then classified to the degree that the crime was committed and the circumstances behind the act. Circumstances that are taken into account include the intent of the person committing the crime and whether or not a weapon was used (Miller & Jentz, 2011). The level of pain and suffering experienced by the victim is also taken into account when considering whether or not the crime was considered a violent one.

Property crime can be broken down into several parts. These parts include; burglary, larceny, obtaining goods by false pretenses, receiving stolen goods, arson, and forgery (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Property crimes are the most common kind of criminal activity. Property crimes are crimes in which it is the goal of the offender to obtain some form of economic gain or to damage another's property (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Burglary takes place when someone breaks into another person's property or home and has the intent to commit a felony. Larceny is the action of taking someone's possessions away from them with no intent to bring it back. Forgery is also another form of property crime (Miller & Jentz, 2011). This takes place when someone makes changes of writing which include electronic records in a way that changes the legal rights and liabilities of another.

Public order crimes do not generally cause harm to others and can be seen as victimless crimes. They can be seen as victimless crimes because they usually only cause harm to the person doing the act. Some examples of public order crimes include public drunkenness, prostitution, gambling, and illegal drug use. From the years 1995 to 2000, forty-one percent of violent crimes committed against college students and thirty-eight percent of non-students, were committed by an offender perceived to be using drugs (BJS, 2003). These crimes are important to societies as a whole as it protects the members of the society and attempt to safeguard to committing more serious crimes such as violent crimes or property crime.

White-collar crimes most frequently take place in a business or a business context. These are not considered violent crimes and occur when a person or a business is committing the crime in order to receive a personal or business advantage. Common forms of white-collar crimes include; embezzlement, mail and wire fraud, bribery, bankruptcy fraud, the theft of trade secrets, and insider trading (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Embezzlement occurs when someone is provided with another person's funds or property and does not do with it what the person wanted them to. Most frequently this occurs in businesses where an employee steals the funds (Miller & Jentz, 2011). These employees may take the funds for their own financial gain and attempt to cover it up by changing crucial information in the company's records.

Bribery takes place when someone offers to give another person something in order to get them to do something for their own private benefit. The three types of bribery that are considered crimes include bribery of public officials, commercial bribery, and bribery of foreign officials (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Bankruptcy crime is another common form of fraud. This can take place in many different areas of the bankruptcy process. One area in which this is common is where the person in debt attempts to hide some of their assets. This can happen when someone transfers property to a relative or friend so that the asset cannot be seized.

Organized crime operates illegitimately by providing illegal goods and services. For organized crime the traditional markets are gambling, prostitution, illegal narcotics, loan sharking and counterfeiting and credit card scams (Miller & Jentz, 2011). The profits from organized crime and illegal activities account for billions of dollars per year. Most of this comes from the profits from illegal drug transactions and to a lesser extent, from racketeering, prostitution and gambling (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Under federal law, banks and other financial institutions are required to report money transactions over $10,000. Those who engage in illegal activities face difficulties in depositing their cash profits. As an alternative to storing money from illegal transactions in a safe deposit box, wrongdoers and racketeers have invented ways to launder the dirty money to make it clean through legitimate business (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Money laundering is engaging financial transactions to conceal the identity, or source of the illegally gained money.


There are three phases in the criminal process. These three phases are the arrest, indictment or information, and trial (Miller & Jentz, 2011). Before an arrest warrant can be issued, there must first be probable cause that the person in question was involved in the crime (Miller & Jentz, 2011). After the person is arrested there is a series of events that must take place. The arrest happens after a person is taken into custody by the police (FindLaw, Chronology: The Arrest Process, 2012). The first thing that will happen is the accused will have their rights explained to them; these rights are called the Miranda Rights. They are five rights and they are as follows:

You have the right to remain silent and to refuse to answer questions.

Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law.

You have a right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.

If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish.

If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have a right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney (FindLaw, Chronology: The Arrest Process, 2012).

After the arrest the police will do a full body search and if the accused's car is taken into custody with them, the police will do a full search of the car too. This is to ensure that the accused is not hiding a weapon or incriminating evidence. Anything that they have on them, such as money, will be taken to a safe place where an inventory will be taken and they will have the accused read and sign the inventory.

Next is the booking process. During the booking procedure police will ask the person in custody basic questions (address, and phone number); they will then be fingerprinted and photographed (FindLaw, Chronology: The Arrest Process, 2012). The information will be sent to the appropriate prosecutor's office. The prosecutor will then make the decision as to what charges should be filed. After the charges have been filed, the accused will have an arraignment where the charges against them will be read to them. They will then have an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. When they are placed back in jail, they have the opportunity to place bail. The amount of bail is usually set by the judge. If the accused pays the amount owed, they are released from jail. If the accused does not show up for their court date, an issue of a warrant will be put out for their arrest. If the accused does show up to court , they will then get their money back.

After the trial, the person is then sentenced to prison if they are found guilty. It will be decided which prison the criminal will serve or carry out their sentence in. The length of time the criminal spends in jail will depend on what was decided in the court verdict. Some criminals will be sent to prison for a certain amount of time but will be able to get out early (paroled) if it seems they are rehabilitated during their time in prison and exhibited good behavior. In this case, they will go in front of a parole board and the board will then decide if the convict should be released on parole.


Criminal law is very important to our society. It helps to ensure the protection of the United States citizens by specifically concentrating on individuals that commit crimes. We clearly described criminal law by defining what criminal law is, the categories of criminal law, the criminal process, and the statutes of criminal law. Criminal law focuses on the intent of the wrongdoer. Criminal law is intended to deter criminal behavior and punish those individuals who commit crimes against others and against society. Criminal law consists of several categories of crimes and within these categories, there are multiple crimes that make up each category. Finally, when crimes occur, the criminal process is implemented. This process includes arrest, indictment or information, and trial. Although our society will change over time, we can take comfort in knowing that criminal law will be there to keep our citizens safe and ensure justice is served.