The state has a monopoly on behaviour usually deemed criminal. It murders, kidnaps, and locks up people. Sovereignty has come to be identified with the unbridled - and exclusive - exercise of violence. The emergence of modern international law has narrowed the field of permissible conduct. A sovereign can no longer commit genocide or ethnic cleansing with impunity, for instance.
Many acts - such as the waging of aggressive war, the mistreatment of minorities, the suppression of the freedom of association - hitherto sovereign privilege, have thankfully been criminalized. Many politicians, hitherto immune to international prosecution, are no longer so. Consider Yugoslavias Milosevic and Chiles Pinochet.
But, the irony is that a similar trend of criminalization - within national legal systems - allows governments to oppress their citizenry to an extent previously unknown. Hitherto civil torts, permissible acts, and common behaviour patterns are routinely criminalized by legislators and regulators. Precious few are decriminalized.
Consider, for instance, the criminalization in the Economic Espionage Act 1996 of the misappropriation of trade secrets and the criminalization of the violation of copyrights in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 2000 Ė both in the USA. These used to be civil torts. They still are in many countries. Drug use, common behaviour in England only 50 years ago Ė is now criminal. The list goes on.
Criminal laws pertaining to property have malignantly proliferated and pervaded every economic and private interaction. The result is a bewildering multitude of laws, regulations statutes, and acts.
The average Babylonian could have memorizes and assimilated the Hammurabic code 37 centuries ago - it was short, simple, and intuitively just.
English criminal law - partly applicable in many of its former colonies, such as India, Pakistan, Canada, and Australia - is a mishmash of overlapping and contradictory statutes - some of these hundreds of years old - and court decisions, collectively known as "case law".
Despite the publishing of a Model Penal Code in 1962 by the American Law Institute, the criminal provisions of various states within the USA often conflict. The typical American cant hope to get acquainted with even a negligible fraction of his countrys fiendishly complex and hopelessly brobdignagian criminal code. Such inevitable ignorance breeds criminal behaviour - sometimes inadvertently - and transforms many upright citizens into delinquents.
In the land of the free - the USA - close to 2 million adults are behind bars and another 4.5 million are on probation, most of them on drug charges. The costs of criminalization - both financial and social - are mind boggling. According to "The Economist", Americas prison system cost it $54 billion a year - disregarding the price tag of law enforcement, the judiciary, lost product, and rehabilitation.
What constitutes a crime A clear and consistent definition has yet to transpire.
There are five types of criminal behaviour: crimes against oneself, or "victimless crimes" such as suicide, abortion, and the consumption of drugs, crimes against others such as murder or mugging, crimes among consenting adults such as incest, and in certain countries, homosexuality and euthanasia, crimes against collectives such as treason, genocide, or ethnic cleansing, and crimes against the international community and world order such as executing prisoners of war. The last two categories often overlap.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica provides this definition of a crime: "The intentional commission of an act usually deemed socially harmful or dangerous and specifically defined, prohibited, and punishable under the criminal law."
But who decides what is socially harmful What about acts committed unintentionally known as "strict liability offences" in the parlance How can we establish intention - "mens rea", or the "guilty mind" - beyond a reasonable doubt
A much tighter definition would be: "The commission of an act punishable under the criminal law." A crime is what the law - state law, kinship law, religious law, or any other widely accepted law - says is a crime. Legal systems and texts often conflict.
Murderous blood feuds are legitimate according to the 15th century "Qanoon", still applicable in large parts of Albania. Killing ones infant daughters and old relatives is socially condoned - though illegal - in India, China, Alaska, and parts of Africa. Genocide may have been legally sanctioned in Germany and Rwanda - but is strictly forbidden under international law.
Laws being the outcomes of compromises and power plays, there is only a tenuous connection between justice and morality. Some "crimes" are categorical imperatives. Helping the Jews in Nazi Germany was a criminal act - yet a highly moral one.
The ethical nature of some crimes depends on circumstances, timing, and cultural context. Murder is a vile deed - but assassinating Saddam Hussein may be morally commendable. Killing an embryo is a crime in some countries - but not so killing a fetus. A "status offence" is not a criminal act if committed by an adult. Mutilating the body of a live baby is heinous - but this is the essence of Jewish circumcision. In some societies, criminal guilt is collective. All Americans are held blameworthy by the Arab street for the choices and actions of their leaders. All Jews are accomplices in the "crimes" of the "Zionists".
In all societies, crime is a growth industry. Millions of professionals - judges, police officers, criminologists, psychologists, journalists, publishers, prosecutors, lawyers, social workers, probation officers, wardens, sociologists, non-governmental-organizations, weapons manufacturers, laboratory technicians, graphologists, and private detectives - derive their livelihood, parasitically, from crime. They often perpetuate models of punishment and retribution that lead to recidivism rather than to to the reintegration of criminals in society and their rehabilitation.
Organized in vocal interest groups and lobbies, they harp on the insecurities and phobias of the alienated urbanites. They consume ever growing budgets and rejoice with every new behaviour criminalized by exasperated lawmakers. In the majority of countries, the justice system is a dismal failure and law enforcement agencies are part of the problem, not its solution.
The sad truth is that many types of crime are considered by people to be normative and common behaviours and, thus, go unreported. Victim surveys and self-report studies conducted by criminologists reveal that most crimes go unreported. The protracted fad of criminalization has rendered criminal many perfectly acceptable and recurring behaviours and acts. Homosexuality, abortion, gambling, prostitution, pornography, and suicide have all been criminal offences at one time or another.
But the quintessential example of over-criminalization is drug abuse.
There is scant medical evidence that soft drugs such as cannabis or MDMA "Ecstasy" - and even cocaine - have an irreversible effect on brain chemistry or functioning. Last month an almighty row erupted in Britain when Jon Cole, an addiction researcher at Liverpool University, claimed, to quote "The Economist" quoting the "Psychologist", that:
"Experimental evidence suggesting a link between Ecstasy use and problems such as nerve damage and brain impairment is flawed ... using this ill-substantiated cause-and-effect to tell the chemical generation that they are brain damaged when they are not creates public health problems of its own."
Moreover, it is commonly accepted that alcohol abuse and nicotine abuse can be at least as harmful as the abuse of marijuana, for instance. Yet, though somewhat curbed, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking are legal. In contrast, users of cocaine - only a century ago recommended by doctors as tranquilizer - face life in jail in many countries, death in others. Almost everywhere pot smokers are confronted with prison terms.
The "war on drugs" - one of the most expensive and protracted in history - has failed abysmally. Drugs are more abundant and cheaper than ever. The social costs have been staggering: the emergence of violent crime where none existed before, the destabilization of drug-producing countries, the collusion of drug traffickers with terrorists, and the death of millions - law enforcement agents, criminals, and users.
Few doubt that legalizing most drugs would have a beneficial effect. Crime empires would crumble overnight, users would be assured of the quality of the products they consume, and the addicted few would not be incarcerated or stigmatized - but rather treated and rehabilitated.
That soft, largely harmless, drugs continue to be illicit is the outcome of compounded political and economic pressures by lobby and interest groups of manufacturers of legal drugs, law enforcement agencies, the judicial system, and the aforementioned long list of those who benefit from the status quo.
Only a popular movement can lead to the decriminalization of the more innocuous drugs. But such a crusade should be part of a larger campaign to reverse the overall tide of criminalization. Many "crimes" should revert to their erstwhile status as civil torts. Others should be wiped off the statute books altogether. Hundreds of thousands should be pardoned and allowed to reintegrate in society, unencumbered by a past of transgressions against an inane and inflationary penal code.
This, admittedly, will reduce the leverage the state has today against its citizens and its ability to intrude on their lives, preferences, privacy, and leisure. Bureaucrats and politicians may find this abhorrent. Freedom loving people should rejoice.
Rights and Obligations with Prenuptial Agreement
Prenuptial agreements are like insurance policies. You do the paperwork, and then hope youll never need it. However, since half of marriages end in divorce within the first seven years, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement before you walk down the aisle and say, "I do."
Living Will And Durable Power Of Attorney For Health Care. What Is The Difference
A Living Will is a legal document addressing only deathbed considerations; a client unilaterally declares his/her desire that life-prolonging measures be discontinued when there is no hope of ultimate recovery.
How to Talk to the Police if Your Suspected of a Crime
If youíre suspected of a crime, the police can come to your house or work or find you on the street to talk to you. Usually it will be a detective in plain clothes in an unmarked car who will want to talk to you. You might find a card from the detective under your door, or a message on your phone from him asking you to call.
Your Yearly Living Trust Review
Some time ago, Congress made certain changes to the estate taxes.As a result of the changes, effective January, 2004, the tax free amount increased to $1,500,000. Back in 1997 it was $600,000. This allows a married couple to leave a minimum of $3,000,000 tax free.
Case Watchers Make It Easy To Keep Up With Criminal Trial News
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to search for news about a specific trial, especially when the mainstream media isn’t interested.Now, Case Watchers keeps readers apprised in an easy to read format.
Personal Injury Settlement
Personal Injury Settlement is an art, not a science like many personal injury attorneys may think.Understanding all of the moving parts and motivation of all parties interested in the settlement process may be the most important aspect of achieving the highest settlement amount for a client.Companies like Global Financial, which provide cash advances against personal injury and worker compensation cases in 48 states http://www.glofin.com can help with the settlement process.There is nothing worse than a financially desperate plaintiff when trying to achieve the highest settlement offer.
Limit Your Liability to Protect Your Assets
If your business runs into serious difficulty, will it bring you down too For example, what if one of your employees got involved in a serious car accident while working for you Will the resulting lawsuit bankrupt you personally
If Your Case Gets Denied
If you have been injured or become ill and are no longer able to work, you have certain Social Security Disability Benefits. Social Security Disability is a benefit received from the Social Security Administration by disabled workers and in some cases their dependents, similar to those received by retired workers. And you will have to file your case.
The Hypocrisy of Insider Trading Laws
Perhaps Walter Williams and I are the only two people on earth who can see the hypocrisy of insider trading laws. I somehow doubt it, though. Williams wrote a column about a year ago, lambasting these laws and Im going to pick up where he left off. These laws run counter the notion we accept in every other aspect of society that life is unfair. In every facet of life, there are people who have access to advantages that others do not have. However, we dont attempt to make these advantages illegal except when it comes to insider trading.
Alternative Billing -- Win Win Strategies
Better Legal Billing: Time Slips for the Future
Stopping Home Foreclosure
A Foreclosure Prevention Service has numerous ways it can help you deal with the foreclosure process. Under the law, you have a right to remain in the property for a certain period of time. If you canít pay the full amount owed without creating a hardship for your family you need a legal review of your situation, your rights, and your choices before you agree to anything. Protect yourself and your family.
Stop Collection Agency Harassment
Owing a debt does not automatically subject you to harrassing, threatening and other inappropriate collection agency behavior. Some collection agencies go too far with what I call "renegade collectors" they will repeatedly call you at your home and/or business, threaten to send a marshall over to serve you with lawsuit papers or send intimidating letters, appearing to come from an attorney or law firm, stating that you will lose your car, wages and other property if you do not pay your debt! It does not matter that you failed to pay a debt or that you can not afford to pay your debt at this time no one should intimidate, threaten or harrass you or coerce you to give out personal or financial information. Inappropriate collection procedures can intimidate you into paying for costs that may not even be your responsibility.You are protected by the law from innapropriate collection procedures.
Do You Own Your Web Site Design
Your web site has been up for a few months and you are making money hand over foot.While surfing sites one evening, you are shocked to find a competitor usingyour design.You find out your designer sold them the same design. They must be breaking the law, right It all depends on whether you own the copyright to your web site design.Many site owners are shocked to find out they do not.
Fighting Identity Theft
Chances are good that you know someone who has been victimized by the fastest growing crime - identity theft.The Federal Trade Commission FTC reported that there were 10 million cases of identity theft in 2002 alone.Itís estimated that someoneís identity is stolen every 79 seconds.
Consumers - Fight Back With FTCs Do Not Call Registry
The Federal Trade Commission has rolled out itís National Do Not Call Registry and the registration site already has over 700,000 registrants.This is great news for consumers who have grown tired of annoying sales calls by pesky telemarketers.
Travel Insurance Might Be Just What You Need!
Travel insurance is something that many people havenít considered. Sure, itís possible that you may never have to access your travel insurance, but just having it can really give you peace of mind. As it so often happens, there are many different circumstances or situations that could cause you to cancel your trip, interrupt your plans and possibly return home early or force you to seek emergency medical treatment while traveling. To demonstrate the importance of purchasing travel insurance, and emergency travel services, here are a few common examples of what might go wrong:
Frequently Asked Questions About Wills, Living Wills and Powers of Attorney
Frequently Asked Questions About Wills, Living Wills and Powers of Attorney
Do You Have a Case Against Your Stock Broker Ten ways to Tell
As an attorney who represents individual investors from around the Country in claims against their stock brokers, I hear a wide variety of complaints about brokersí fraud and misconduct. If you believe that your broker has abused or harmed you, you may want to consider whether your complaint falls within any of the following typical complaint categories. If you fall into one of these categories, you may have a meritorious complaint against your broker.
What on earth are Home Equity Loans
Home equity loans are one of the most common types of financing for doing improvements on your house. These loans are not necessary used for home improvements but can also be used to simply obtain extra cash. It is essentially a standard loan, based on the equity you have in your house. This is as opposed to mortgage loans which are the loans used to purchase a home. Equity is the value that you have paid on your mortgage loan.
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