Criminal Law

Criminal Law, branch of law that defines crimes, establishes
punishments, and regulates the investigation and prosecution of people
accused of committing crimes. Criminal law includes both substantive law,
and criminal procedure, which regulates the implementation and enforcement
of substantive criminal law. Substantive criminal law defines crime and
punishment, and criminal procedure is concerned with the legal rules
followed and the steps taken to investigate, apprehend, charge, prosecute,
convict, and sentence to punishment individuals who violate substantive
criminal law. For example, criminal procedure describes how a murder trial
must be conducted. The purpose of Criminal Law is to protect the public
from harm by inflicting punishment upon those who have already done harm
and by threatening with punishment those who are tempted to do harm. The
harm that criminal law aims to prevent varies. It may be physical harm,
death, or bodily injury to human beings; the loss of or damage to property;
sexualimmorality; danger to the government; disturbance of the public
peace and order; or injury to the public health. Conduct that threatens to
cause, but has not yet caused, a harmful result may be enough to constitute
a crime. Thus, criminal law often strives to avoid harm by forbidding
conduct that may lead to harmful result.

One purpose of
both civil law and criminal law in the common law system is to
respond to harmful acts committed by individuals. However, each type of law
provides different responses. A person who is injured by the action of
another may bring a civil lawsuit against the person who caused the harm.

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If the victim prevails, the civil law generally provides that the person
who caused the injury must pay money damages to compensate for the harm
suffered. A person who acts in a way that is considered harmful to society
in general may be prosecuted by the government in a criminal case. If the
individual is convicted of the crime, he or she will be punished under
criminal law by either a fine, imprisonment, or death. In some cases, a
person’s wrongful and harmful act can invoke both criminal and civil law

Various theories have been advanced to justify or explain the
goals of criminal punishment, including retribution, deterrence, restraint
, rehabilitation, and restoration. Sometimes punishment advances more than
one of these goals. At other times, a punishment may promote one goal and
conflict with another. The theory of retribution holds that punishment is
imposed on the blameworthy party in order for society to vent its anger
toward and exact vengeance upon the criminal. Supporters of this theory
look upon punishment not as a tool to deter future crime but as a device
for ensuring that offenders pay for past misconduct. Those who support the
deterrence theory believe that if punishment is imposed upon a person who
has committed a crime, the pain inflicted will dissuade the offender and
others from repeating the crime. When the theory refers to the specific
offender who committed the crime, it is known as special deterrence.

General deterrence describes the effect that punishment has when it serves
as a public example or threat that deters people other than the initial
offender from committing similar crimes. Some believe that the goal of
punishment is restraint. If a criminal is confined, executed, or otherwise
incapacitated, such punishment will deny the criminal the ability or
opportunity to commit further crimes that harm society. Another possible
goal of criminal punishment is rehabilitation of the offender. Supporters
of rehabilitation seek to prevent crime by providing offenders with the
education and treatment necessary to eliminate criminal tendencies, as well
as the skills to become productive members of society. The theory of
restoration takes a victim-oriented approach to crime that emphasizes
restitution for victims. Rather than focus on the punishment of criminals,
supporters of this theory advocate restoring the victim and creating
constructive roles for victims in the criminal justice process. For
example, relatives of a murder victim may be encouraged to testify about
the impact of the death when the murderer is sentenced by the court.

Promoters of this theory believe that such victim involvement in the
process helps repair the harm caused by crime and facilitates community
reconciliation. The various justifications for criminal punishment are not
mutually exclusive. A particular punishment may advance several goals at
the same time. A term of imprisonment, for example, may serve to
incapacitate the offender, deter others in society from committing similar
acts, and, at the same time, provide an opportunity for rehabilitative
treatment for the offender. On the other hand, the goals of punishment may
at times


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