Sources and Purposes of Criminal Law


Criminal law defines what actions constitute a crime. It sets the procedures used in the arrest, searches and seizures, and interrogations of persons suspected of criminal commissions and omissions. Sources of criminal law include:

  1. Common law: these are laws that are considered judge-formulated laws which originated from England during the twentieth century. Judges’ rules on certain commissions were punishable and they identified activities such as arson as crimes committed against the state. One of the major parts of the common law is “the law of precedent”
  2. Constitution: this is also another source of criminal law in which the judges are bound by certain statutes precisely spelled out in the constitution
  3. Statutes and ordinances: like for the case of the United States of America, the Congress and state legislatures may make up of pass laws that constitute criminal laws
  4. Administrative rules through criminal punishment: these rules that are semi-legislative or may be semi-judicial; examples of where these laws are used are the Commission of Federal Tax and the agency for environmental protection
  5. The decision of the appellate court: this is where legal views have law status as spelled out by the United States appellate court. The appellate court may interpret a statutory law or it may emerge from the resolutions where laws are not yet codified with the statutes (Joubert, 2005).

Jurisdiction to Create and Enforce Criminal Law

Jurisdiction is the right and power or authority to interpret and apply the law. The jurisdiction to create and enforce criminal law is there, the power granted to a legal body or political personality to transact and make utterances on matters of the law and by implication ensure the administration of justice with a defined boundary. Jurisdictions can exist at international, national, and state levels. At the international level, international bodies have the jurisdiction to create laws that are binding to all countries that become signatories to the international statutes; an example of an international body with international jurisdiction to create and enforce criminal law is the International Criminal Court headquartered in Hague, Switzerland. Many countries are divided into small sub-units. For instance, the United States of America is subdivided into states. All the subunits are allowed to practice jurisdiction as may be established by the legislature and the executive arm of the government; the exercise is normally done through the court. At the state level, jurisdiction to create and enforce criminal laws is exercised by the government where it is mandatory to have a physical or practical allocation of courts and tribunals all over the territory. The government may also bestow authority over an individual to make semi-judicial decisions (Gardner and Anderson, 2008).

The Adversarial System and Standards of Proof in Criminal Cases

The adversarial system involves opposing parties in the process of determining the course of justice. In this case, the court proceedings rely on the competition between the advocates representing the position of their clients. The process involves a judge, or bench of judges, the juries who play the role of determining the fact about the issue and making appropriate rulings. This system is commonly used in countries where common laws are used. Justice is ensured when the most effective antagonist succeeds in convincing the judge or jury that his or her viewpoint is the right one.

In the case of standard proof in criminal cases, the defendant doesn’t need to offer proof of anything. This is a case where justice is not determined based on the preponderance of the evidence. However, the government is obliged to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty (Jenkins, 2009). The standard proofs are always used in civil cases. It is important to note that different standards of proof are required for various cases taking into account what is a bet. The most used standards include:

  1. Clear and convincing evidence standards: this may involve civil cases which may involve probable loss of very significant interest. Under this standard, a party must prove within a required framework of not beyond a reasonable doubt.
  2. The preponderance of the evidence: is used where a party is required to win only if he or she proves that it is more likely than not that his or her point of argument is the right one;
  3. Beyond a reasonable doubt: where the defendant has five more pieces of evidence that will leave no doubt in the mind of the judge or the jury.

The models of Criminal Liability and Accomplice Liability

The main assumption of criminal liability is that it involves both rational and physical elements to the act of felony. It is the blameworthiness for actions or commissions that cause harm to the society and are directly prosecuted by the government or government agencies. In this case, the intent of the commission must be proven for one to be judged guilty. The person committing a crime must have known the dangers or consequences of the criminal acts.

An accomplice is that individual who (actively) participates in the process of committing a felony (though they may not be (directly) involved in the commission of the misdemeanor. Accomplice liability is one of the means that can be used by prosecutors to widen the scope of criminal activity to implicate more persons who could be potentially involved in criminal activity or commission or omission. In this case for an accomplice to be held responsible, he or she must have known about the crime in advance amongst other legal requirements for one to be considered as an accomplice (Breen, 2003).

Inchoate Offenses and Elements of Additional Criminal Offenses

Inchoate offenses are authentic offenses or behavior or an action that is considered to be criminal and has no real harm being experienced or done; in this case, the only harm that that may occur is that which the law seeks to prevent. Every offense of this nature must-have men’s rea; meaning there must be intent to commit the crime of offense. Specific intent to commit such a crime may be inferred from the doctrines of dangerous proximity. Nonetheless, it is important to note that this kind of crime occurs in a case where the intended criminal act is not perpetrated. However, the elements of additional criminal offenses include:

  1. Required results were an offense demands requires the particular result of offense activity
  2. Negation of exception in which the elements provided in the statute for the exceptions to prosecution.

Reference List

Breen, M. (2003). Understanding evil. An interdisciplinary approach. New York: Rodopi. Gardner, T. & Anderson, T. (2008). Criminal Law. New York: Cengage Learning.

Jenkins, J. (2009). The American Courts. A Procedural Approach. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Joubert, C. (2005). Judicial control of foreign evidence in comparative perspective. Criminal sciences. Netherlands: Rozenberg Publishers.