What are the core principles of criminal justice?

They stipulate what is common in all crimes. To determine what conduct constitutes a crime, it is often necessary to examine the terms of the relevant provisions of the criminal code or of statutory provisions (some offences under English law have not been defined in law). Despite differences in form and detail, there are several general principles of criminal law that are widely found in all criminal justice systems. A widely accepted principle of criminal law is the rule against retroactivity, which prohibits the imposition of ex post facto laws (that is,.

The rule restricts the authority of judges to declare new crimes (although not necessarily to expand the scope of old crimes through interpretation). One of the most important general principles of criminal law is that normally you cannot convict a person of a crime without having intended to commit the act in question. With few exceptions, the person does not need to know that the act itself is a crime, since ignorance of the law is no excuse for criminal conduct. Therefore, if a person believes that an act is perfectly legal and performs it intentionally, the legal requirement of criminal intent is met.

In most Western countries, legal codes recognize insanity as a condition in which a person lacks criminal intent. There are several versions of the law of insanity, but in the most common version, insanity is defined as a mental illness or defect that makes a person not know what they are doing or that they are not aware that what they are doing is wrong. A legal declaration of insanity results in the acquittal of criminal charges (“innocent by insanity”), because the person lacks the required intention, although this verdict is very rare in countries that recognize this defense. Another very rare condition that totally exempts people from criminal liability is a form of involuntary behavior known as automatism, a state in which the conscious mind does not control body movements, such as during somnambulism, which makes the person unaccountable even for serious consequences.

By contrast, most types of mental disorders (p. ex.,. The Supreme Court ruled in 2002, in Atkins v. Virginia, that capital punishment for people with mental retardation was unconstitutional; however, those people can be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

The practice of not absolving people with mental disabilities, but of mitigating their punishments, is found in many common law countries, including Canada, England and Australia. The principle of criminal intent is subject to many other exceptions and requirements. In the case of a few crimes, known as crimes of strict liability, they are completely abandoned or only a limited scope is allowed. For example, employers can be held responsible if employees are injured on the job, regardless of how carefully they have followed safety precautions, and manufacturers can be held responsible for injuries caused by a defective product, even if they showed no fault or negligence in the manufacturing process.

In the case of very few other crimes, the person must have a “specific intention” to commit a crime (p. The fact that a person has been drinking or using drugs before committing a crime is not in and of itself a defense, except possibly in the case of crimes that require such specific intent. Provocation is not generally a defense either, except in cases of murder, where evidence of a high degree of provocation (in English law, sufficient to cause a reasonable person to act in the same way as the accused) could result in a murder sentence, even if the murder was intentional. On the other hand, some “serious murder” laws attribute criminal intent to any death that occurs during the commission of certain dangerous “serious crimes”.

This is similar to strict liability. For example, in one case in the United States, a person who committed a robbery took hostage whom the police accidentally killed. The thief was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Criminal liability applies not only to those who commit criminal acts, but also to those who knowingly encourage or abet a perpetrator by knowingly encouraging or helping him to commit such an act (p.

ex. Those who actually commit the criminal act (p. Generally, the law holds everyone equally responsible and subject to the same penalty. However, in many cases, the accomplice before the fact is considered more guilty (p.

In the latter situation, the person who carries out the act is an innocent agent and has no criminal liability, and the person who caused the innocent agent to act is considered the principal in the first instance. A post-incident accomplice is one who helps an offender evade arrest or conviction, possibly by hiding it or destroying evidence. However, some jurisdictions (p. A widely accepted principle of criminal law is the rule against retroactivity, which prohibits the imposition of laws ex post fato (i).

Criminal liability applies not only to those who commit criminal acts, but also to those who knowingly encourage or abet an author by knowingly encouraging or helping the commission of that act (e. .

Luis Mersinger
Luis Mersinger

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