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Why Do We Have Criminal Laws?

Posted by William Bly | Aug 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

Because it's such a big part of our lives, it can be easy to just assume that having a criminal justice system is a necessity. However, like everything else in the government, the criminal law should not be blindly accepted without thinking about the purposes that it serves. Even though every culture has had some form of criminal justice system, it's only been over the past few centuries that people have thought about why we have it.

After years of arguing, four purposes for having a criminal justice system have emerged. They are retribution, restraint, rehabilitation, and deterrence.


One of the aims of criminal law is simply to make wrongdoers suffer. While this is a mainly emotional aspect of why we have criminal laws, it's still one of the biggest reasons why we feel the need for them. Punishing wrongdoers makes the person who has been victimized by the crime feel as if they have received justice. Additionally, seeing a wrongdoer being punished sends a message to potential wrong-doers.

Together, these two reasons make people feel as if a criminal justice system is necessary for a civilized society.


Another purpose of criminal law – and of incarceration, in particular – is that it allows society to keep away those who have hurt others. This is one of the reasons why major crimes, like murder, are punishable by long periods of restraint, typically in the form of jail time. In theory, it makes the society a safer place because the people who have been convicted of a crime are locked up where they can't hurt anyone else.


One of the most overlooked aspects of the criminal justice system, especially in the United States, is the importance of making sure that wrongdoers change their ways. Crimes rarely just happen. They are often the result of many other problems, like poverty, mental illness, bad decision making processes, lack of education, or hopelessness. Rehabilitating those convicted of a crime, and giving them the tools they need to succeed in the world without committing another crime, is one of the reasons why we have criminal laws.


Finally, criminal laws exist to scare people. Anytime you've thought of committing a crime, from murder down to keying someone's car, and decided not to because you didn't want to get caught and face the penalties, then the criminal law deterred you from committing the crime.

Criminal Defense Attorney William T. Bly

The existence of such a huge part of a government as a criminal justice system should not be accepted blindly. Understanding why we have criminal laws, and why criminals get punished is important, because it makes it easier to see why things are the way they are.

If you've been charged with a crime, it means that the government is trying to criminally punish you for something it thinks you did. Hiring a criminal defense attorney, like William T. Bly, is the best way to protect yourself from facing these punishments. Contact his law office online or at (207) 571-8146 to start planning your defense.

About the Author

William Bly

William T. Bly, Esq. is a graduate of Rutgers College where he majored in Political Science with a minor in U.S. History. Attorney Bly attended and graduated the University of Maine School of Law. During his time in law school, Attorney Bly focused on criminal defense.


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