Basic Concepts of Criminal Law

By George P. Fletcher | Go to book overview

Introduction

Criminal law has become codified law. Everyplace you go in the Western world, you will find a criminal code that lays out the definitions of offenses in the code's "special part" and prescribes general principles of responsibility in the code's "general part." Germans are proud of their code enacted in 1975. Americans cherish their Model Penal Code, which has provided the model for the recent reform of criminal codes in at least thirty-five states. The French show off a new 1994 code, as do the Spanish in their 1995 innovation. One of the first items of business in the post-Communist countries of Eastern Europe is to adopt new criminal codes to reflect their new emphasis on human rights and the just treatment of criminal suspects.

One consequence of codification is that every country goes its own way. Every country has adopted its own conception of punishable behavior, its own definitions of offenses, its own principles for determining questions of self-defense, necessity, insanity, negligence, and complicity. Criminal law has become state law, parochial law. If there was ever much unity among the countries that succeeded to the domain of Roman law, there is none now. If there was ever a common vocabulary and set of principles used by common law jurists, that commonality has long-since disintegrated. In the United States today, it is almost impossible to find two states that have the same law of homicide. Every state that has followed the Model Penal Code has amended and adapted the model code to meet its own local preferences. The republics of the for-

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Basic Concepts of Criminal Law
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Substance Versus Procedure 7
  • Notes 23
  • 2 - Punishment Versus Treatment 25
  • Notes 40
  • 3 - Subject Versus Object 43
  • Notes 56
  • 4 - Human Causes Versus Natural Events 59
  • Notes 72
  • 5 - The Crime Versus the Offender 74
  • 6 - Offenses Versus Defenses 93
  • Notes 108
  • 7 - Intention Versus Negligence 111
  • 8 - Self-Defense Versus Necessity 130
  • Notes 145
  • 9 - Relevant Versus Irrelevant Mistakes 148
  • Notes 167
  • 10 - Attempts Versus Completed Offenses 171
  • Notes 184
  • 11 - Perpetration Versus Complicity 188
  • Notes 203
  • 12 - Justice Versus Legality 206
  • Notes 213
  • Index 215
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