Criminal Justice Today: Purposes of Criminal Laws


The success in solving the problems of criminal law is directly connected with state and level of criminality, and with the effectiveness in dealing with it. However, we should not exaggerate the role of criminal law in crime control, even with the active actions of law-enforcement institutions. The criminal law has historically established particular purposes in its basis. This essay covers the analysis of the purposes of the criminal law in such directions as the punishment, preventive actions, and deterrence.

The Punishment

The problem of criminal punishment is one of most complex and many-sided in the criminal- legal science. Its value is determined by the fact that criminal law realizes itself, first of all, by threat and by the application of punishment. The criminal guiltiness is the required attribute of the concept of crime. Punishment – is the reaction of the state to the committed crime. If the publicly dangerous act is not followed by according punishment, it cannot be considered a crime.

In the case of committing a crime the punishment comes out as the final component of the criminal- legal mechanism in the protection of the interests of personality, society and state from the criminal encroachments (criminal – crime – criminal responsibility). Punishment is called to establish the triumph of legality and validity in the society, with the observance of the principle of inevitability it comes out as the serious means of the preventive actions against the crimes.

Purposes of Punishment

The purpose of punishment is the restoration of social justice, the reformation of the convicted and the prevention of committing new crimes, i.e., reaching social results, for which strives the legislator and law court, establishing the sanctions of the criminal law and applying to the guilty individual specific measure of punishment.

The purpose of the restoration of the social justice consists of protecting the state, the society and each individual personally, from the arbitrariness of the crime. The punishment of the guilty must testify the exultation of justice and legality in the society; the activity of the law-enforcement institutions is oriented, first of all, on the restoration of the validity, disrupted as a result of illegal acts, which has dangerous characteristics. The purpose of the reformation of the convicted consists in the fact that the person, to whom the punishment is applied, becomes a respectable member of society, who honors its laws.

The main attributes of punishment:

  • punishment was strictly personal in nature and always directed against the individual offender;
  • punishment targets the most significant areas in the life of the human (life, personal freedom, property);
  • punishment is proportional to the crime committed;
  • punishment lies in removing or limiting the rights and freedoms of the offender;
  • punishment is applied on the basis of the principle of equity, i.e. the punishment is in accordance to the degree of the crime, the facts of the case and the identity of the offender;
  • punishment s has an educational impact


The deterrent action of law consists of general and particular warning. The general warning implies that the forced action on the convicted has in its consequence the effect to which the others are held from the same criminal encroachment subsequently. By particular warning is understood the preventive actions for the convicted himself to avoid committing new crimes.

Particular warning should be distinguished from the correction. With the correction the basic task includes the measures to which new crimes are not committed, while during the warning the main thing is to show the criminal that in the required order he will be punished for his illegal actions. The main purpose of the deterrence is making an example that demonstrates that it should not be followed. However, it is not suggested that the warning to impose threat against offenders has no deterrent effect.


Retribution as another aim of the law must be distinguished from revenge – at least, its suitability as a justification for punishment depends on this. Disinclination is provoked by the fact that it is considered that a civilized society should have abandoned retributive approach. However, it could be considered that the retribution is merely a moral justification for the victim and it lies in the human nature.


Another purpose of the criminal law in a way that might prevent future crimes is rehabilitating the convicted. Although this is the most optimistic purpose of the criminal law it has many obstacles in achieving perfect results from doing so. One of the reasons is that it has proved to be ineffective in practical employment. The other factor is the long periods of control, comparing to other deterrent or retributive actions. In spite of its ineffectiveness this method is one of the purposes of the criminal law


In the conditions of a contemporary democratic society, the only effective means of fighting the crime – is the direction of the social prevention, in which the punishment, although plays an important role, it comes out as a helping tool, since only by itself it does not decrease the crime.

Works Cited

Schmalleger, F. (2006). Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the Twenty-first Century. Prentice Hall.

Duff, A. (2008). Theories of Criminal Law. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philisophy. Web.

Lanham, D., Bartal, B., Evans, R., & Wood, D. (2006). Criminal Laws in Australia: Purposes of the Law. Au: The Federation Press.

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