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For now, it is important to understand that criminal act, omission to act, and criminal intent are elements or parts of every crime. Illegality is also an element of every crime. Generally, the government must enact a criminal law specifying a crime and its elements before it can punish an individual for criminal behavior.

Criminal laws are the primary focus of this book. Laws differ significantly from state to state. Throughout the United States, each state and the federal government criminalize different behaviors. Although this plethora of laws makes American legal studies more complicated for teachers and students, the size, cultural makeup, and geographic variety of our country demand this type of legal system. Laws in a democratic society, unlike laws of nature, are created by people and are founded in religious, cultural, and historical value systems.

People from varying backgrounds live in different regions of this country. Thus you will see that different people enact distinct laws that best suit their needs. This book is intended for use in all states. However, the bulk of any criminal law overview is an examination of different crimes and their elements.

But John Austin — , an early positivist , applied utilitarianism in accepting the calculating nature of human beings and the existence of an objective morality. He denied that the legal validity of a norm depends on whether its content conforms to morality.

Thus in Austinian terms, a moral code can objectively determine what people ought to do, the law can embody whatever norms the legislature decrees to achieve social utility, but every individual remains free to choose what to do. Similarly, H. Hart saw the law as an aspect of sovereignty , with lawmakers able to adopt any law as a means to a moral end. Thus the necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth of a proposition of law simply involved internal logic and consistency , and that the state's agents used state power with responsibility.

Ronald Dworkin rejects Hart's theory and proposes that all individuals should expect the equal respect and concern of those who govern them as a fundamental political right.


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He offers a theory of compliance overlaid by a theory of deference the citizen's duty to obey the law and a theory of enforcement, which identifies the legitimate goals of enforcement and punishment. Legislation must conform to a theory of legitimacy, which describes the circumstances under which a particular person or group is entitled to make law, and a theory of legislative justice, which describes the law they are entitled or obliged to make. There are natural-law theorists who have accepted the idea of enforcing the prevailing morality as a primary function of the law.

Thus, on this line of reasoning, the legal validity of a norm necessarily entails its moral justice. One can solve this problem by granting some degree of moral relativism and accepting that norms may evolve over time and, therefore, one can criticize the continued enforcement of old laws in the light of the current norms.

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People may find such law acceptable, but the use of state power to coerce citizens to comply with that law lacks moral justification. More recent conceptions of the theory characterise crime as the violation of individual rights. Since society considers so many rights as natural hence the term " right " rather than man-made, what constitutes a crime also counts as natural, in contrast to laws seen as man-made. Adam Smith illustrates this view, saying that a smuggler would be an excellent citizen, " Natural-law theory therefore distinguishes between "criminality" which derives from human nature and "illegality" which originates with the interests of those in power.

Lawyers sometimes express the two concepts with the phrases malum in se and malum prohibitum respectively. They regard a "crime malum in se " as inherently criminal; whereas a "crime malum prohibitum " the argument goes counts as criminal only because the law has decreed it so. It follows from this view that one can perform an illegal act without committing a crime, while a criminal act could be perfectly legal.

Many Enlightenment thinkers such as Adam Smith and the American Founding Fathers subscribed to this view to some extent, and it remains influential among so-called classical liberals [ citation needed ] and libertarians. What one group considers a crime may cause or ignite war or conflict. However, the earliest known civilizations had codes of law , containing both civil and penal rules mixed together, though not always in recorded form.

The Sumerians produced the earliest surviving written codes. The Sumerians later issued other codes, including the "code of Lipit-Ishtar ". This code, from the 20th century BCE, contains some fifty articles, and scholars have reconstructed it by comparing several sources. The Sumerian was deeply conscious of his personal rights and resented any encroachment on them, whether by his King, his superior, or his equal.

No wonder that the Sumerians were the first to compile laws and law codes. Successive legal codes in Babylon , including the code of Hammurabi c. Sir Henry Maine studied the ancient codes available in his day, and failed to find any criminal law in the "modern" sense of the word.

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Thus the Hellenic laws treated all forms of theft , assault , rape , and murder as private wrongs, and left action for enforcement up to the victims or their survivors. The earliest systems seem to have lacked formal courts. The Romans systematized law and applied their system across the Roman Empire. Again, the initial rules of Roman law regarded assaults as a matter of private compensation.

The most significant Roman law concept involved dominion. The Commentaries of Gaius written between and AD on the Twelve Tables treated furtum in modern parlance: "theft" as a tort.


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Similarly, assault and violent robbery involved trespass as to the pater's property so, for example, the rape of a slave could become the subject of compensation to the pater as having trespassed on his "property" , and breach of such laws created a vinculum juris an obligation of law that only the payment of monetary compensation modern " damages " could discharge. Similarly, the consolidated Teutonic laws of the Germanic tribes , [34] included a complex system of monetary compensations for what courts would now [update] consider the complete [ citation needed ] range of criminal offences against the person, from murder down.

This idea came from common law , and the earliest conception of a criminal act involved events of such major significance that the "state" had to usurp the usual functions of the civil tribunals, and direct a special law or privilegium against the perpetrator.

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All the earliest English criminal trials involved wholly extraordinary and arbitrary courts without any settled law to apply, whereas the civil delictual law operated in a highly developed and consistent manner except where a king wanted to raise money by selling a new form of writ. The development of the idea that the "state" dispenses justice in a court only emerges in parallel with or after the emergence of the concept of sovereignty.

In continental Europe, Roman law persisted, but with a stronger influence from the Christian Church. The people decided the cases usually with largest freeholders dominating. This system later gradually developed into a system with a royal judge nominating a number of the most esteemed men of the parish as his board, fulfilling the function of "the people" of yore.

From the Hellenic system onwards, the policy rationale for requiring the payment of monetary compensation for wrongs committed has involved the avoidance of feuding between clans and families. On the other hand, the institution of oaths also played down the threat of feudal warfare. Both in archaic Greece and in medieval Scandinavia , an accused person walked free if he could get a sufficient number of male relatives to swear him not guilty.

Compare the United Nations Security Council , in which the veto power of the permanent members ensures that the organization does not become involved in crises where it could not enforce its decisions. These means of restraining private feuds did not always work, and sometimes prevented the fulfillment of justice.

But in the earliest times the "state" did not always provide an independent policing force. Thus criminal law grew out of what 21st-century lawyers would call torts; and, in real terms, many acts and omissions classified as crimes actually overlap with civil-law concepts. The development of sociological thought from the 19th century onwards prompted some fresh views on crime and criminality, and fostered the beginnings of criminology as a study of crime in society.

In the 20th century, Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish made a study of criminalization as a coercive method of state control. Researchers and commentators have classified crimes into the following categories, in addition to those above:. One can categorise crimes depending on the related punishment, with sentencing tariffs prescribed in line with the perceived seriousness of the offence. Thus fines and noncustodial sentences may address the crimes seen as least serious, with lengthy imprisonment or in some jurisdictions capital punishment reserved for the most serious.

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Under the common law of England, crimes were classified as either treason , felony or misdemeanour , with treason sometimes being included with the felonies. This system was based on the perceived seriousness of the offence. It is still used in the United States but the distinction between felony and misdemeanour is abolished in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

The following classes of offence are based on mode of trial :. In common law countries, crimes may be categorised into common law offences and statutory offences.

Actus Reus - General Principles of Criminal Law - Criminal Law

In the US, Australia and Canada in particular , they are divided into federal crimes and under state crimes. These are further categorized as violent or property crimes. All other crimes count come under Part II.

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For convenience, such lists usually include infractions although, in the U. Compare tortfeasance. Booking arrests require detention for a time-frame ranging 1 to 24 hours. There are several national and International organizations offering studies and statistics about global and local crime activity, such as United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime , the United States of America Overseas Security Advisory Council OSAC safety report or national reports generated by the law-enforcement authorities of EU state member reported to the Europol. In England and Wales, as well as in Hong Kong, the term "offence" means the same thing as, and is interchangeable with, the term " crime ", [11] They are further split into:.

Many different causes and correlates of crime have been proposed with varying degree of empirical support.

They include socioeconomic, psychological, biological, and behavioral factors. Controversial topics include media violence research and effects of gun politics. Emotional state both chronic and current have a tremendous impact on individual thought processes and, as a result, can be linked to criminal activities.

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The positive psychology concept of Broaden and Build posits that cognitive functioning expands when an individual is in a good-feeling emotional state and contracts as emotional state declines. The narrowed thought-action repertoires can result in the only paths perceptible to an individual being ones they would never use if they saw an alternative, but if they can't conceive of the alternatives that carry less risk they will choose one that they can see.

Criminals who commit even the most horrendous of crimes, such as mass murders, did not see another solution. Crimes defined by treaty as crimes against international law include:. From the point of view of state-centric law, extraordinary procedures usually international courts may prosecute such crimes. Different religious traditions may promote distinct norms of behaviour, and these in turn may clash or harmonise with the perceived interests of a state. Socially accepted or imposed religious morality has influenced secular jurisdictions on issues that may otherwise concern only an individual's conscience.

Activities sometimes criminalized on religious grounds include for example alcohol consumption prohibition , abortion and stem-cell research.