Purpose of Criminal Laws

“A law is a rule of conduct, generally found enacted in the form of a statue that prescribes or mandates certain forms of behavior. Laws govern many aspects of our lives, and we are expected to know what the law says as it applies to our daily lives and to follow it; the word law generally contemplates both statuary and case law” (Schmalleger, 2011, pg. 114). “Criminal law is the avenue by which public morality is expressed. Second, criminal law is used to set boundaries within society.

Criminal law provides for the punishment of those that violate established societal morals and rules by taking some type of legal action against these individuals; legal actions may include things such as imprisonment, probation, community service, or fines” (What is the Purpose of Criminal Law? , 2011). Therefore, without criminal law people would not know how to react to different illegal situations or what to expect from other individual; people would not feel safe in their homes, work, anywhere’s for that matter.

“People would not be able to exercise their basic rights that are available to them as citizens of a free nation; a society needs laws to uphold fairness and to prevent the victimization of innocents” (Schmalleger, 2011, pg. 114). Therefore, it is vital that criminal laws exits, as its purpose is to establish protection of public order within society, prevent crime and punish those that violate these societal regulations.

Statutory Law and Case Law When applying criminal law it is vital to understand and distinguish between statutory law and case law. “Statutory laws are those laws that are legislated by local, state, or federal governments. They are written or codified law; the “law on the books,” as enacted by a government body or agency having the power to make laws. Statutory law is “the law on the books. ” It results from legislative action and is often thought of as “the law of the land” (Schmalleger, 2011, pg. 114). Case laws also known as common law are those rules or regulations that have been passed down for many generations.

“Case laws are the body of judicial precedent, historically built on legal reasoning and past interpretations of statutory laws, that serves as a guide to decision making, especially in the courts” (Schmalleger, 2011, pg. 114). Both statutory law and case laws define what behaviors are considered acceptable and unacceptable by society. “One of the main purposes of any law is to deter individuals from committing or engaging in those behaviors deemed unacceptable by society.

When individuals violate societal laws, statutory law and common law can be used to determine the legal actions to be taken against the individual based on the r offense” (What is the Purpose of Criminal Law? , 2011) Protection of Public Order Public order crimes are known by a variety of names, including consensual crime, victimless vice, crimes without victims, or victimless crimes which involve acts that interfere with the operations of society and the ability of people to function efficiently. The major crimes that are analyzed in the public order category are typically separated by sex-related crimes and substance-related offenses.

Prostitution, deviant sex, precocious sex, homosexuality, pornography, alcoholism, liquor law violations, driving while intoxicated, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and drug offenses, such as opiates, heroin, marijuana, crack, cocaine and cigarette smoking are included. Criminal law protection was created to regulate Public order crimes and/or behaviors within society. Criminal law protects the expression of public morality, sets the boundaries within society, and provides punishment for those who violate society.

Criminal laws address these areas of protection through maintenance of public order, deterrence of criminal activity, and punishment of its offenders (Bundy, 2012). Prevention The main purpose of criminal law is to prevent society from committing crime or engaging in behavior deemed unacceptable by society. According to the Schmalleger text, the Classis School theory was an 18th century approach to crime causation and criminal responsibility that grew out of the Enlightenment and that emphasized the role of free will and reasonable punishments.

Classical thinkers believed that punishment, if it is to be an effective deterrent, has to outweigh the potential pleasure derived from criminal behavior (Schmalleger, 2011). The Classical school theory emphasizes on free will and human rationality. It was not crated to study criminals, but rather to study law making and legal processing. The classical school theory saw crime as an activity engaged in out of total free will and that individuals weighed the consequences of their actions.

They implemented punishment in order to discourage people from committing crime and the punishment should be greater than the pleasure of criminal gains (Classical School , 2012). Punishment Criminal law protection is to establish rules and boundaries within society and punish those who violate these societal regulations. Therefore, sentencing is the imposition of a penalty on an individual convicted of a crime or a sanction imposed for a criminal offense. Sentencing is intended to be an impartial judicial proceeding during which criminal responsibility is determined.

“Most sentencing decisions are made by judges, although in some cases, especially where a death sentence is possible, juries may be involved in a special sentencing phase of courtroom proceedings. The way our contemporary American correctional system works, includes probation, parole, jails, prisons, capital punishment, and a variety of innovative alternatives to traditional sentences; once a person has been arrested, tried, and sentenced, the correctional process begins” (Bundy, 2012). Conclusion Criminal law is used to set boundaries within society.

It also provides punishment of those that violate established societal morals and rules by taking some type of legal action against these individuals; legal actions may include things such as imprisonment, probation, community service, or fines. Without the protection of criminal law, society would not know what to expect from one another, nor be able to plan for the future with any degree of assurance. The less powerful would fall victim to the more powerful who could take what they wanted from them. For that reason it is vital that criminal law protects the public, find ways to prevent crime and punish those who violate the law.


  • Bundy, D. (2012). Philosophy of Criminal Law Protection. Retrieved June 17, 2012, from Examiner. com: http://www. examiner. com/article/philosophy-of-criminal-law-protection
  • Classical School . (2012). Retrieved May 24, 2012, from Criminology: http://cahabaschool. org/Criminology. htm
  • Schmalleger, F. (2011). Criminal Justice Today, An introductory text for the 21st century – 11th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NY: Prentice Hall.
  • What is the Purpose of Criminal Law? (2011). Retrieved June 17, 2012, from Purpose of Criminal Law: http://www. purposeofcriminallaw. com.