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The Role of Criminal Law in Our Society In cases when offenses are committed that are detrimental to society, these are called crimes. It is a legal fiction, according to common law jurisdiction, that the peace of the sovereign is disturbed in crimes committed. Offenders of peace of the sovereign will be prosecuted by the government officials who are the agents of the sovereign. Thus, the word plaintiff under criminal law is the sovereign or translated into the people. Deterrence and punishment are the major objectives of criminal law, while civil law is individual compensation. There are two distinct elements in a criminal offence and these are the physical act or the actus reur or guilty act, and the requisite mental state of which the act is done or mens rea or guilty mind. Let us take for example a murder case, it is the unlawful killing of a person that is the element of actus reus, and the intention to kill or cause grievous injury is the element of mens rea. The criminal law specifies the punishment that will be put on the concern person, and it also would require the defendants to detail their defences so that their criminal responsibility will be lessen or negated. It is not the nature of the criminal law to require a victim or a victim’s consent to prosecute the offender. Also, the consent of the victim cannot be a defence in most crimes, and note that even with the objections of the victim, a criminal prosecution can take place. There are two fields that a criminal law would play in most jurisdictions of both common and civil law traditions. First is that the criminal procedure would regulate the process in order to address the violations of criminal law. The second is the definition of and punishments of the various crimes which the substantive criminal law will detail out.
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With criminal law, crimes from civil wrongs like tort or breach of contract are distinguished from the other. To regulate the behaviour of individuals and groups in relation to the norms of society at large, criminal law is seen to function this, while civil law is mainly directed at the relationships between private individuals and their rights and obligations based on the law. It was not until the late nineteenth century that the legal systems in the past underwent a definition between civil and criminal law. The basic course in criminal law in most U.S. law schools is based upon the English common criminal law of 1750.
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There are several types of criminal law and these are arrests and searches, drug crimes, juvenile law, drunk driving, parole, probation, pardons, violent crimes, white collar crimes and military law. The other term for criminal law is penal law, a term used to refer to various rule bodies in distinct jurisdictions.