Crime is the violation of the rule of law for which a legal system envisions penalties in the form of punishments. The literal meaning of crime is charge, blame and offense. When society thinks that unofficial sanctions to sustain a balanced social attitude are not enough, then it may have recourse to more systematized social leverages. With the aid of the legal mechanism available, the state officials are often able to make sure the conformity of the behavior of the people with the required norms of the rule of the law. Crime is basically a behavior which diverges sharply from generally accepted standards of attitudinal pattern and thus infringing the dominant norms and the relevant law stipulates how human beings should behave in the given situation. This is also called the normative definition of the crime.
Normative school of thought also weighs the intricate causes behind the notion of crime and investigates to comprehend how varying social, political, economic and psychological contexts impact the contemporary definitions of crime and the responses of the state warranted because of the typical nature of the crime. These causes are rapidly changing and so is the content of the crime and thus the consequent response. As culture undergoes shift and the political ambience also changes, attitude may be criminalized which may have the further consequences for crime rates and impact the responsive measures of the state and the say of the public about these crimes. Crime is the act which is outlawed by the sate legislature and goes against the social practices of the given society. “Persons convicted of a crime may be incarcerated, fined, or both. However, persons found liable in a civil case may only have to give up property or pay money, but are not incarcerated. A “crime” is any act or omission (of an act) in violation of a public law forbidding or commanding it. Though there are some common crimes, most crimes in the United States are established by local, state, and federal governments. Criminal laws vary significantly from state to state. There is, however, a model penal code(mpc) which serves as a good starting place to gain an understanding of the basic structure of criminal liability. Crimes include both felonies (more serious offenses — like murder or rape) and misdemeanors (less serious offenses — like petty theft or jaywalking). Felonies are usually crimes punishable by imprisonment of a year or more, while misdemeanors are crimes punishable by less than a year” (Wex, 2003, Criminal Law). Cultural standards suggest human beings should conduct themselves in controlled fashion and crime is quite antithetical to it. Crime has remained in vogue from times immemorial. Societies have never been without illegal and corrupt practices and this journey stars from the eating of the forbidden tree in the heaven down to the modern nature of crime down to this day.
Human nature is rigid and therefore, crime has continued too happen irrespective of thee changing realities of time and space. Crime usurps the rights of other citizens and one he or she does so is called the criminal. The definition of the crime also heavily hinges on the culture in which it is perpetrated. Various societies and cultures have their own mechanisms and perspectives to define the crime according to their own rules of the standard behavior. This is indicator of the fact that defining crime is a matter of perspective and no simple general definition of the crime can easily be drawn. Society is itself is the hatchery of all sorts of crime and the occurrences of crime cannot be detached from crimes.
The criminal law or penal law pertains to many sets of rules in various jurisdictions whose similar feature is the potential for unique and mostly rigid enforcements as penalties for inability to comply. Criminal punishment varies in its magnitude depending upon the offense and the actual jurisdiction. Criminal law is particularly imposed by the state unlike civil law, the enforcement of which can be insisted by the private parties. Criminal law is very prominent for its unique gravest consequences in case of failure of following its canons. Every crime is comprised of the criminal constituents. “Philosophical ‘theories of criminal law’ may be analytical or normative. Once we have identified the salient features that distinguish criminal law from other kinds of law, we ask whether and why we should maintain such an institution. Instrumentalist answers to this question portray criminal law as an efficient technique that helps us achieve worthwhile ends; non-instrumentalist answers portray it as an intrinsically appropriate response to certain kinds of wrongful conduct” (Wex, 2008).Capital punishments are awarded in some jurisdictions for the most heinous nature of crimes. Incarcerations and fines are also imposed to put the criminal on the right track.
Five major purposes of criminal law are often stated. They include retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and restitution. Jurisdictions have their ways and means to prioritize their importance. It is opined that criminals must be retaliated and must be returned in the same coin as they have acted. Here retributions factors in. it is most obvious purpose of criminal law. Jurisdictions insist as criminal has exacted inappropriate advantage from he victim and done serious harm to him or her, therefore the criminal must be meted out the same punishment to ‘balance the scales’. “Criminals ought to suffer in some way. This is the most widely seen goal. Criminals have taken improper advantage, or inflicted unfair detriment, upon others and consequently, the criminal law will put criminals at some unpleasant disadvantage” (Gross, Hyman, 2005, 126). The unpleasant disadvantage is essential to restore the victim to his to her original position and make him or her realize that law stands by with a victim in the most critical juncture. This belief is rooted in utilitarianism. People comply with laws to attain the right not to be injured or harmed and if people infringe thecae laws, they give away the rights conferred on them by the law. Therefore, one who murders must be given the same dose. It is also suggested that it is humane to kill the killer.
Deterrence is also often cited as the major primrose of the penal law. Individual deterrence is intended for the particular offender. The objective is to levy a sufficient punishment to frustrate the offender and refrains from repeating the same attitudinal pattern. General deterrence is aimed at discouraging the criminal tendencies for the whole society. When a criminal is punished, he or she is made the horrible example for the whole of society. By enforcing a penalty that have recourse to criminal acts, other criminals who share the same bent of mind are heavily repulsed in their attempt to undertake criminal offenses to get the ends. Deterrence is the most ardent weapon in the hands of the criminal law. Exemplifying the criminals make the rest of society drop the option of crime and come on the right track. Deterrence creates the passions of fear of punishment in the hearts and minds of others. “Underlying the various theories explaining the purpose of criminal law is the basic premise that criminal law is a means by which society reaffirms its values and denounces violators. A change in values entails a change in the types of conduct society wishes to prohibit. Amendments to the criminal code in areas such as sexual offences, abortion, pornography and punishment for murder demonstrate that Canadian criminal laws develop, at least to some extent, in response to changing social values. Criminal law has also changed in response to technical advances, eg, recent amendments to the Criminal Code concerning theft of telecommunications, and credit card fraud and provisions regulating the use of wiretap surveillance”(The Canadian Enclyopedia, 2008. Criminal Law).
Incapacitation is also believed to be the aim of criminal law. It is coined to detach he criminals from the society so that they are unable to perpetrate crimes and the public is saved from the loss which otherwise can occur at the hands of those criminals who have been punished. Incarcerating the willing criminal for a fixed period of time immediate saves the society and also assist in altering the behavior of the criminal. Death penalty and banishment are also instances of incapacitation of the criminals. Rehabilitation comes next. It is one of the important aims of the criminal law for which it is enforced. It converts the criminal into a beneficial member of society. Its primary objectives are to avoid more offense by persuading the offender that his or her act was wrong, immoral and illegal. Furthermore, it is not only harmful for the society but for the criminal as well. This method relies on education and rhetoric for the enforcement of rehabilitation of the criminal back in the mainstream of society.
Restitution is also one of the significant purposes of penal law. This is a victim focused theory of punishment. The aim is to amend by means of state authority ant damage inflicted upon the victim by the criminal. For illustration, one who embezzles is required to compensate the victim thus he or she is restituted as if no offense has been done to him or her. Restitution has close affiliations with civil law and is coupled with other goals to render effective realists. The purpose of criminal law is to make the individuals and the collective society’s law abiding which is in their interest. It leads to the flourishing of healthy culture where tolerance prevails and people become sensitive to one and other. “Philosophical ‘theories of criminal law’ may be analytical or normative. Once we have identified the salient features that distinguish criminal law from other kinds of law, we ask whether and why we should maintain such an institution. Instrumentalist answers to this question portray criminal law as an efficient technique that helps us achieve worthwhile ends; non-instrumentalist answers portray it as an intrinsically appropriate response to certain kinds of wrongful conduct. By considering the question of how the criminal law should address the citizens, we can discern the truth in the non-instrumentalist perspective. The next question concerns the proper scope of the criminal law: what kinds of conduct should be criminalised? Several candidate principles of criminalization are critically discussed, including the Harm Principle, and the claim that the criminal law should be concerned with ‘public’, rather than merely ‘private’, wrongs” (Roger Bowles, Nuno Garoupa, and Michael Faure, 2008. The Scope of Criminal Law and Criminal Sanctions: an Economic View and Policy Implications). Laws endeavor to bring organization and order to our world and are aimed at avoidance of chaos and conflict. One of the main issues in the sociology of criminal law is the capacity and scope of criminal law. The capacity of law to shield norms of the society is of particular interest for many. The ability of law to change behavior and conform to the standard social practices has always been debatable among experts and public as well. It has been thus a thoroughly controversial matter. One set of experts suggest that it is devoid of such ability. “Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner asserted that law cannot move ahead of a society s’ customs or mores. Law reflects the sentiments of people that cannot lead to change independent of those sentiments. Indeed, legislation that is not grounded in customs or mores is doomed. Thus reveals change and itself cannot produce change”. (By Edwin H. Sutherland, Donald Ray Cressey, David F. Luckenbill., 1992, p. 44). The opponents of this argument stress that law can be harbinger of change. On one hand, Law may be formed by the passion of the people and on the other hand, act as a catalyst by means of which required behavior can be fostered. As a compelling and educational way, law can alter the behavior of the people. Jeremy Bentham and his supporters often argued that law can reorganize society in order to control many problems and fulfill the requirements of the age. Law has also been seen as having potential to eliminate specific ways of thinking and behaviors and indoctrinating them with ideologically feasible perspectives and attitudinal patterns. This is the often the opinion of many jurists.
Sociologists think that the behavior of the people undergoes shift as a result of socialization, but they also tend to agree that law is also the director of this change. There is evidence that some laws were fruitful in the realms of education, housing, labor relations and transportation. There is also evidence that some of the laws brought changes that remained unnoticed as they were subtle and unintended. The race relations in America were highly influenced by the laws enforced and the behavior of the white towards black underwent great transformations with the passage of time. Increased contacts that were sanctioned by the laws led to limited prejudices.
In fact some laws produce changes and other fail to do so. The laws are more likely to do so when they are considered legitimate by the followers and they are likely to prude least change when they are despised by the community in which they are expected to bring change. The more the clarity and conveyance of source s’ information of the law and more the source offers the objective for the law in terms that are commensurate with the prevalent ideology on the reasons and the control of the unruly behavior. It is also likely to bring more change if it perceived as agent of severe punishment and more it breaks away the social divisions. The criminal law is restrictive when it is intended as such or the given society takes it so. On the other hand it may have broader scope when the intention of those who are coining it aspire to make it an factor of broader changes in society and its scope become all embracing.
The Canadian Enclyopedia, 2008. Criminal Law. Web.
Wex, 2008, Criminal Law an Overview, hr. org. Web.
Gross, Hyman, 2005, A Theory of Criminal Justice. Oxford University Press.
Wex, 2003, Criminal Law. Cornell University. 2008. Web.
Roger Bowles, Nuno Garoupa, and Michael Faure. The Scope of Criminal Law and Criminal Sanctions: an Economic View and Policy Implications. Journal of Law and Society 35 (2008): 389-416.