Criminal Law: Some things to understand

Rohan Mathew

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Criminal law is a branch of law with the object of to define acts disturbing public or social order, to determine the conditions of responsibility for these acts, to define the applicable sanctions as well as the way in which they will be applied. In other words, the purpose of Criminal Law is to define offenses, related penalties, as well as the conditions and effects of liability

Criminal law can also be defined as the study of the criminal phenomenon, the study of behaviors which, in various forms, will be considered as contrary to social order and public security and which will be punished for this reason.

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In addition, it is a repressive law that belongs to public law even if it includes elements in private law (victims of crime can seek compensation for their damage in civil matters).

Criminal law can be divided into several branches: one can thus make a distinction between substantive law and formal law.

Within substantive criminal law, a distinction is then made between general criminal law and special criminal law. The two branches are distinguished according to their purpose. More generally, general criminal law deals with the conditions and effects of criminal liability. General criminal law is synthetic; it aims to set up intellectual models corresponding to the offenses.

Conversely, special criminal law deals with the specific nature of the offenses incriminated in a given legal order. It studies the preliminary elements and the constitutive elements, the penalties and any procedural particularities, the rules defined in each case, to the exclusion of all others.

The object of criminal law is the fight against crime. It defines the prohibitions, the behaviors that appear to be contrary to order public and social cohesion at some point in history. Criminal law defines values ​​that are understood as essential and deserving of specific protection. It is through offenses that the protection of these values ​​is made possible. Criminal law is one of the main prerogatives of public power, which consists of setting certain limits on individual freedoms. This explains in particular the monopoly that the state allows itself in this matter. The state has a monopoly on violence and prohibits private revenge.

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Criminal law has two main players: the agent who committed an act and the company represented by the state. In other words, the possible victim is not a main actor of the repression even if the criminal law is interested in it and that it has become more and more important since ten years in the field. Indeed, criminal law is not a victim’s right, but a right of social value aimed at protecting the whole of society. Repression is therefore not organized around the victims and the state happens to be the major actor in the implementation of repression.

Criminalization is the act of the legislator or the regulatory power making a criminal, tort or contravention behavior. The offense is the content of incrimination. The offense is defined as any active or passive behavior which is foreseen and punished by a legislative or regulatory text undermining public order. The offense may be the result of behavior or, on the contrary, of an omission, of a lack of intervention.