Criminal Law in U.S. Society

Essay by hungusUniversity, Bachelor's April 2004

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Part 1

There are many purposes and objectives of criminal law in modern U.S. society. The conflict perspective of criminal law envisions two groups in society: the dominant class and those they dominate. Defining and enforcing crime becomes a means of reproducing the power and socioeconomic inequalities between these groups, as the dominant interests conflict with their subordinates. The group dominating society use their power to formulate laws, to apply these laws to less powerful groups, and to rationalize their behavior as legitimate. Some, like Emile Durkeim, believe crime contributes to fair and orderly functioning within our complex society. This consensus perspective portrays criminal law as a product of social needs and values that operates in the interest of society at large where rules and laws are viewed as serving the needs of a majority of society. In Henry Cheeseman's "Contemporary Business and E-commerce Law" book there are about eight main purposes of the law: keeping the peace, shaping moral standards, promoting social justice, maintaining the status quo, facilitating orderly change, facilitating planning, providing a basis for compromise, and maximizing individual freedom.

Whatever one believes is the function of crime, it is widely accepted that law is designed to control behavior, whether it is criminal or civil law.

According to a crime is "an act or omission which is prohibited by criminal law. Each state sets out a limited series of acts (crimes) which are prohibited and punishes the commission of these acts by a fine, imprisonment or some other form of punishment. In exceptional cases, an omission to act can constitute a crime, such as failing to give assistance to a person in peril or failing to report a case of child abuse." Many problems arise when using this legalistic definition. Crime is only relative to when it...