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What is the purpose of criminal law

What is the purpose of criminal law? This is not a very uncommon question that people in the field of legal study are asked. To answer this question, it is important to know what criminal law is. Criminal Law is the branch of law that deals with defining crime and providing the corresponding penalty or punishment for it. The application of criminal rules is not absolute among all people. There are various circumstances that can mitigate, aggravate, justify or even exempt a person from criminal responsibility.

This aspect of a state’s power may easily be categorized as an instrument of oppression or repression in some way. Ideally, the legal system does not always deal with the retribution of crimes committed by an offender but is mainly designed for the protection of the general welfare and protection of its citizens.

To serve and to protect is basically what the purpose of criminal law is. To elucidate further, the purpose can be considered as two fold. The first purpose is to maintain an orderly society through the expression of a public morality. The second one is to limit the people’s actions to what is moral and acceptable.

As to the first purpose, the expression of public morality is done by means of statutes, ordinances, rules and other laws. It usually describes what the government wants its people to act in furtherance of the welfare of the people. This is done by telling or defining whether or not a particular act is right or wrong depending on the criteria dictated by the respective state’s culture.

The second purpose of criminal law is all about providing the relevant penalties or punishments for such act considered to be wrong by the law. These will present unfavorable consequences when criminal laws are breached by offenders. Such power can be identified as an exercise of the inherent power of the state to protect the welfare of its people and maintain the integrity of its sovereignty. The only limitation to this power is that due process must be properly employed.

In addition, there are more aspects to consider in determining what the purpose of criminal law is. It also entails the protection of the victims of such crimes and also of protecting the rights of an accused. The cold neutrality of an impartial judge is also an integral part of an effective criminal regulation system. While the State may impose these punishments, constitutional and basic human rights as well should be put in consideration.

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What is the Purpose of Criminal Law?

Purpose of Criminal Law

Civil Law vs Criminal Law

When the average layperson thinks about breaking the law, they by default are thinking about criminal law. However, there is also civil law to consider, which has its own set of characteristics. Here are some of the principle differences between civil and criminal law.

Legal Definitions

Criminal Law – In criminal law, the government will file the case. In order to prove their case, the burden of proof is always on the government. They must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty and win a unanimous decision from the jury.

Civil Law – Cases are filed by private parties in civil cases and deal with the disputes between people or organizations where compensation is awarded to the plaintiff. While Federal courts require an unanimous verdict, in most civil case the plaintiff only has to prove that the “preponderance” of the evidence favors them. This can also be referred to in simpler terms as “more likely than not.”

This varies from state to state though. In Missouri, the decision of the jury must be 9-3 for the plaintiff to win. But in Federal courts, the plaintiff must get a unanimous verdict.

Punishment Comparison

A defendant in civil litigation will not be incarcerated and certainly never executed. Losing defendant in civil litigation only reimburses the plaintiff for losses caused by the defendant’s behavior. Either party (plaintiff or defendant) can be found at fault.

Criminal Law – The crimes are divided into two basic classes: felonies and misdemeanors. The defendant is found guilty when the jury decides unanimously in favor of the plaintiff. If they are found guilty, the punishment is a fine (paid to the government), imprisonment, or death, in states that allow for the death penalty. The decision is and dry: guilty or not guilty.

Civil Law – There is more flexibility with guilt in a civil case. Both the plaintiff and defendant can be found partially right or partially at fault. Either way, the party found guilty cannot be imprisoned and certainly not put to death. But if they are found guilty, they must pay what’s called punitive damages as determined by the judge.

The Appeals Process

Either party may appeal the decision in a civil case. However, in a criminal case, only the defendant can file an appeal. If the person(s) found guilty want to appeal, they have a limited time to file their appeal.