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Law as a “Living Body” 1

Law as a “Living Body”

Garrett Veit

Axia College of University of Phoenix

Law as a “Living Body” 2

Criminal Law is an important means for society to curb crime, keep society peaceful, and

make sure that the victim and the accused criminal have their rights protected. Many people in

the legal profession discuss whether the crime control or the dual process model is more effective

at controlling crime. Criminal law also limits a person's charges and convictions when they are

accused of a crime. When a person is defending themselves against a charge, they can make

justifications and excuses about why they may have committed that crime. The Bill of Rights

has protections that ensure that people who are accused of crimes are treated with respect. An

individual's “life, liberty, and property” are protected by the Due Process clause. The criminal

justice system has changed and evolved, and it now recognizes a lot of “gray areas” where

criminal charges and convictions are concerned. These are important to protect the people

involved in cases that do not fit one category of crime and culpability perfectly. When the

Constitution was made with these safeguards in mind, and when it was amended to further

protect people's rights, it emphasizes how important the idea of justice and the correct operation

of the legal system is to Americans. A functioning legal system is important both as a

fundamental right and as necessary for a democracy.

Criminal Law and Procedure says that Criminal Law exists to “punish and repress

criminal conduct (2007).” Criminal law is necessary to make sure that every individual stays

safe, that their property rights are respected, and that society stays cohesive and effective.

Criminal law also serves to “maintain and teach social values as well as social boundaries

(Criminal Law and Procedure, 2007).” Its role in maintenance and teaching of society's values

is clearly shown when we examine how many government programs are funded to give people
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rehabilitation or counseling. The government also keeps society's values by using jails and

prisons to keep criminals “off the streets.”

The Constitution was written to protect Americans. When they wrote the Constitution,

though, the founding fathers forgot a few things. There was not much specific protection for

people accused of crimes, and they had not taken into account possible “exceptions to the rule.”

People are very different and act in different ways; not every crime that happens falls squarely

within existing legal bounds. When the legal system was being created, the courts realized that

people needed to be able to justify their actions when a crime occurred. The defendant can

produce evidence to defend themselves. An excuse is considered an affirmative defense. That

means that society thinks this crime is acceptable, since most people would do the same thing if

they found themselves in similar circumstances. Duress is one reason that a crime might be

justifiable. “In cases of duress, necessity and self-defense, the main reason why societies excuse

the actor or justify his conduct is mainly because criminal law is not deemed to be a tool for

vengeance, but a practical means to ensure the peaceful existence of a community” (Criminal

Justice Ethics, 2000). Duress is basically when a person is forced to commit a crime against

their wishes. The United States vs. Wolak (1991) is one case when duress occurs. The court

found that, in order for the defendant to be guilty, the duress needs to be proven to have

occurred. The defendant is not responsible for proving their guilt. The prosecution's job is to so

thoroughly prove the defendant's guilt that the jury has no doubts. Duress can be proven in a

number of different ways. In Criminal Justice Ethics, Duress and Culpability says “The

requirements of duress under the common law have been summarized as follows:

D [the accused] will be acquitted of an offense other than murder on the basis of duress if he
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pleads and proves that: (1) C [some other person] unlawfully threatened imminently to kill or

grievously injure him or another person; and (2) he was not at fault in exposing himself to the

threat (2000).”

Protections exist to protect individuals from careless or reckless convictions, and

everyone who is accused of a crime is covered by these protections. The first ten amended

Constitutional rights are called the Bill of Rights. The government made sure that these

amendments were applied to the rights of those accused of a crime in 1971. These procedural

laws stop the criminal justice system from falling into chaos. Some of the rights accorded by

these amendments are protection from unreasonable search or seizure, where a warrant is

necessary for probable cause. These amendments mean that no one can have their life, liberty, or

property taken without “due process,” that people cannot fall under double jeopardy, are not

required to say incriminating things about themselves. They have the right to a reasonably fast

trial that is juried and in public, and they can confront the witness against them at this trial and

hire an attorney or have one provided to them. They are also safe from excessive bail and from

cruel and unusual punishment.

The Constitution includes, among other things the ten amendments that comprise the Bill

of Rights, and the Bill of Rights includes the Due Process clauses. These are the fifth and the

fourteenth amendments. They say that Judges must be fair, and prohibits them from making

verdicts that are incomplete or based on biased information or opinion. Every case follows the

precedents set by the related cases before it. A judge understands the law, and they cannot make

decisions based on solely their own caprice. Due process ensures that every person has a trial

that is fair. The Constitution's Bill of Rights and the Due Process clauses are to protect people
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who are accused of committing a crime. A person who is accused can use justification and

excuses if they need to mitigate the responsibility that they have for the crime – this makes sure

that people who do not deserve it do not get punished. The criminal justice system exists to

make sure that people can live safe lives with no threat to their “life, liberty, and property.”
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Abell, Jennie & Elizabeth Sheehy. (2007). Criminal Law & Procedure: Cases, Context, Critique,

Concord, ON: Captus Press.

Axia College of University of Phoenix. (2007). A Society Designs Laws.

Retrieved November 7, 2010, from Axia College, Week One reading,

aXcess, CJS220—Criminal Justice System Course

Web site.

Gorr, Michael. (2000). Criminal Justice Ethics. MasterFILE Premier,

19, 2.
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