Law and the Criminal an Analysis

Laws are the mechanisms that enable the use of a government’s coercive authority to restrict or to control activity that is deemed to be against the norms and values of a community or to protect the public safety, stability, and property. Laws are codified definitions of actions that either must not be taken or which must be taken in certain situations for a person to avoid detention and prosecution for specific crimes. Laws define, describe, and identify crimes. Laws provide recommended and limited sanctions, fines, and punishments for those actions (or failure to act) that constitute crime.

A criminal is simply an individual who committed an act that is defined in law as a crime. But, to make things more complicated, what if a criminal was unaware that he or she was committing a crime? The principle of ignorance of the law being no excuse takes care of that problem. What if an individual did a harmless act, such as a playful slap that resulted in the death of an individual who had a thin skull? The principle of “take the person as he is” takes care of that. In that principle, ignorance that the person had a thin skull where a slight impact could kill him is no excuse when it was another individuals slap that killed the person. That principle also applies to harm or damage that occurred because of additional factors that the actor was unaware of, such as a Jehovah’s Witness refusing a blood transfusion after being stabbed by someone who did not know that the person’s religious restrictions would cause them to bleed to death. It was the stabbing that created enough damage to cause death.

In the case of a person who should have acted, such as starting a fire and then failing to report it, or witnessing a murder and failing to report it, the law is not so clear. An individual who knew, but failed to report, that his friend murdered a child in Las Vegas went on, without prosecution of any sort, to graduate from college and life a fine life. In other states, the same misconduct has resulted in arrest and imprisonment. Being deemed a criminal for failure to act depends on the law that compels action that is written.

But there is also the arrest and investigation of the law. There is sufficient bias, corruption and undue influence that the law of any country has never been equally or even correctly enforced through arrest and investigation. Some well connected or powerful drunk drivers have been sent home without arrest, while others have been subjected to aggressive action. Unarmed, handcuffed and subdued individuals have been shot to death in the back, where they lie, while others have been allowed to wave guns and knives until they could be subdued without harm. Some well connected soldiers were never arrested or investigated for going AWOL during time of war, while others have been imprisoned or even executed.

There is the prosecution of the law. Prosecutors have refused to carry some cases forward while others are quietly shelved. In some cases the prosecutor clearly has self interest at stake in furthering their career with aggressive action on one case while refusing to prosecute another.

There is the adjudication and sentencing by judges and juries. A jury can “nullify” a prosecution when a trial is moved to a predisposed jurisdiction, when juries are racially exclusive, and when public sentiment highly favors one side or another. Witnesses can be killed or coerced. Judges are not immune to bribery, corruption, bias, and even bizarre behavior.

Finally, corporations can influence the law, the writing and enforcement of the law, and even the sentencing laws in order for the final and most problematic and corruptible form of governmental coercive authority: private prisons, to receive the maximum financial gains from the influence.

In summary, the criminal exists at all levels of society, as defined by the law. Any law can be written to define any person as a criminal. But the primary flaw in any relationship between the criminal and the law is that certain criminals are actually brought through the fullness of the legal process and the law, while others continue in positions of trust, authority, and power without detection, prosecution, or punishment.

Duhame Org, “The Thin Skull Rule”

Tim Jue, “Criticism Mounts As Home Video Shows Bart Cop Shooting, Killing Unarmed Rider”, Jan 2009

MSNBC, “Judges Accused Of Jailing Kids For Cash” Feb 2009

Global Researcher, “The Prison Industry In the United States: Big Business Or A New Form Of Slavery?”, Mar 2008