Law/Importance of Obeying the Law  


     Criminal law is not about preventing people from enjoying life or oppressing them. Its purpose is to establish limits on behavior. Laws, particularly crimi­nal laws, are the tools we use to build an orderly society. An orderly society cannot be achieved or maintained if we allow people to do whatever they want without regard for the rights of others.

     Furthermore, if each of us lived in a state of isolation from all other human beings, there would be little, if any, need for criminal laws--or any law at all, for that matter. Obviously, we do not exist as hermits. In fact, we live in a very complex society requiring daily interaction with many other people.

      In such a society, each person must know what he or she can and cannot legally do regarding our fre­quent contacts and dealings with others. In order to avoid societal chaos, we must have rules to govern our activities. This is why, for example, we have rules regarding the operation of vehicles on our crowded streets and highways.

     Even in a complex society such as ours, if every­one did the "right" thing in relation to all other members of society, we would need few criminal laws. Unfortunately, there will always be individuals who attempt to oppress the helpless, who steal the posses­sions of others, or in one way or another violate the life, liberty, or property of others by force, fear or fraud.

Limitations and Controls.

     The law tends to provide limitations and controls. It is obvious that profession­als already in the system must understand the law. Students preparing for modem-day law enforcement, corrections, or security employment, must also be well grounded in the fundamentals of criminal law. This foundation provides the framework within which each must function.

Historically, our first criminal laws came into being as a result of society's struggle to control those persons whose antisocial activity was destructive of a desirable environment in which people wanted to live. Safety, stability, and integrity are necessary for the healthy growth and benefit of the community as a whole.

We may think of crime as a violation of the basic controls of society, and we may think of criminal law as necessary to deter misconduct and otherwise deal with those individuals who would disrupt society. Criminal law is an instrument of social control. With­out laws, criminal or civil, we would have no protec­tion from the predatory whims of others.

In order to gain the protection of society's laws, the law-abiding members must be willing to give up a small part of their freedom to do just as they wish at all times. This is especially true when one individual's activities interfere with the rights of others. With the above in mind, we may define crime as social conduct considered harmful to individuals and to our institu­tions and therefore made punishable by law.