Criminal offences establish a minimum standard of conduct that should be adhered to by members of a collective society failure to which they will suffer criminal conviction and thereafter, punishment (Laurie 41). Further, it is elaborated; criminal law protects personal sovereignty and equal status by proscribing, preventing, and punishment of actions by some individuals that violate the rights and interests of others (43).
Since laws that are used in criminal proceedings have their foundation in the constitutional framework of jurisprudence, there are basic norms that are generally applicable. The rules of criminal procedure presume a fixed standard of proof. A person accused of any criminal offense can be convicted only if sufficient evidence proves her guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” (Guttel and Doron 598). This is assumed to be applicable uniformly across the divide in criminal law.
As for the case of punishment, legal debate regarding what should constitute punishment has traditionally focused on retribution and deterrence (Guttel and Doron 599). This seems necessary, and as a justification punishment, deterrence is used to suggest that sentencing will decrease the crime rate by causing other potential criminals not to commit offences for fear of being punished themselves, “general deterrence” and, of course, that the criminal who is executed will not offend again, “specific deterrence” (Honeymoon, Jennifer and James 28). In addition, there is desire for vengeance or retribution where the persons committing crime suffer, or are punished for their actions. The principles of retribution suggest that an offender should be punished because he or she “deserves” or “has earned” the sentence of punishment. There are though incidences where it is necessary for the purposes of rehabilitation for the offenders.
Rehabilitation is sometimes carried out in jail terms. This may vary from days to months and sometimes years of imprisonment in federal jails and related facilities. Serious crimes are typically punished with mandatory imprisonment, so that the offender must serve a prison term (Dittmann 678) as opposed to fines where in their absence, the government minimizes the social harm from criminal activity by choosing a policy that deters the most potential criminals (689).
During the times for punishment in the criminal justice system, the victims too have rights that ought to be observed. It has been now acknowledged after the passage of The Crime victims ‘Rights Act of 2004, that victims have certain rights especially during plea bargaining and sentencing. This is in respect to their right to be “reasonably heard” and being accorded justice to victims for crimes committed against them and where this is lacking or the victim feels unsatisfied, the victim’s ability to reopen a plea bargain or sentence through a writ of mandamus if she believes that the district judge or prosecutor denied her one of her rights (Levine 344).
The death penalty as a form of punishment has several issues and these may include a number of rationales that have been used to justify abolishing or retaining the death penalty: deterrence, moral issues and retribution, incapacitation, rehabilitation, cost, and possibility of executing innocent persons (Honeymoon, Jennifer and James 28). Executing offenders deter similar behavior and they suffer for their crimes hence retribution. There are those who hold life to be sacred thereby moral issues in death penalty.
Dittmann, Ingolf. “The Optimal Use of Fines and Imprisonment If Governments Do Not Maximize Welfare.” Journal of Public Economic Theory 8.4 (2006): 677-695. Web. 16 June 2014.
Guttel, Ehud, and Doron Teichman. “Criminal sanctions in the defense of the innocent.” Michigan law review 110.4 (2012): 597-645. Web. 16 June 2014.
Honeyman, Jennifer C., and James R. Ogloff. “Capital Punishment: Arguments for Life and Death.” Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 28.1 (1996): 27-35. Web. 16 June 2014.
Laurie, Kratky Dore. “Review Essay / the Scope and Limits of Criminal Justifications.” Criminal Justice Ethics 18.1 (1999): 41-51. Web. 16 June 2014.
Levine, Danielle. “Public wrongs and private rights: limiting the victim’s role in a system of public prosecution.” Northwestern University Law Review 104.1 (2010): 335-61. Web. 17 June 2014.