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Why Does Society Need Criminal Law?

Criminal law addresses wrongs done to society, even if those wrongs may have harmed only one individual. A criminal prosecution is brought on behalf of the local community, often involving various levels of law enforcement. The justice system is a place where society can examine and punish egregious offenses in appropriate ways, without resorting to personal vengeance. https://youtube.com/watch?v=qJ3rJuMsYQY


The criminal law represents our determination that a crime is committed primarily against a community and not just an individual. It also represents our determination that people should not be forced to seek personal redress for certain types of wrongful acts, for certain violations against the body, the person, the dignity, or the property of another person. So the government replaces the victim in the criminal law and enforces statutes that the legislature has passed as the plaintiff. And in action suing the person who has committed the wrong or the defendant in every criminal case. After a defendant is found guilty and at the time of sentencing, victims are also given the right to speak in a courtroom about the impact of crime on their lives. This also represents an evolution in the law and our understanding that while the government prosecutes crime, it nevertheless affects people at a very personal level. And the impact of that crime is something that we want judges to hear and we want juries to hear when considering the appropriate sentence. To which a defendant is held. The media, including through entertainment, often sensationalizes the legal process. And while it's certainly true that the criminal law involves the type of drama that is close to the human heart, it involves passion and deceit and betrayal and harm and hurt. It is not typically resolved in 60 minutes to the satisfaction of all involved. Moreover, the criminal law involves the complex sorting of facts of who's done what. For what reason? That often takes months, if not years, to untangle through the combined efforts of prosecutors, staff, law enforcement agencies, and community organizations to say nothing of the victims themselves. It involves walking with victims through terrible pain and recovery as they are forced to tell their story live to a jury, and in intensely personal terms that the American adversarial system is designed to ferret out truth, but it also uncovers a great deal of pain. Fundamentally, the social purpose of the criminal law is to impose a process of civilization upon human beings who are messy, who are fallen, who make mistakes. This process gives everyone involved fore- knowledge and notice of the responsibilities of each societal member. Of the shared community compact to which we have agreed in a democratic society.

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