Do Laws Prevent Crime?

Words will not stop a crime. Words will not deter a committed criminal. Criminal laws are written to describe a crime and establish punishment for acts committed. The only way the laws may prevent a crime: the person thinking of committing the crime considers the risk to be greater than the reward. This has been a fact since the beginning of written law. Laws are reactive, not proactive. That can be difficult for some to understand.

I’ll give an easy to understand example: the posted speed limit. When a person drives at a speed greater than the law allows, they are weighing the prospect of getting caught and punished against their desire to reach their destination within a certain time frame. Does the speed limit law stop people from exceeding it? For some people, yes, because the risk is too high. For the person late to work or to pick the kids up from school? Maybe, but most times the consequences of being late are greater in their eyes than the risk they run of being caught or the punishment if they are ticketed.

Let’s look at another type of law. One that makes it illegal to possess or use something. Drugs are a great example. There are drugs used as medication to save or enhance lives daily. Some of these same drugs are used recreationally as well. As long as you have permission, i.e. a prescription, you can lawfully possess and use them. Does that mean only those with permission are able to possess and use them? No, that’s absurd. We all know that people get the drugs illegally and the fact that it is illegal does not prevent it from happening.

This is true of all acts that are not in accordance with the law. Does a person intent on committing a violent crime such as murder care if they have additional charges brought against them for less serious violations? Of course not! Life in prison or the death penalty are the consequences of the murder so what do they care if they break other laws with less severe penalties?

Our criminal justice system is in place to determine guilt and after guilt is established punish the person that committed the crime. Some bills being considered are touted as ways to prevent criminal activity. Laws don’t prevent crime! They establish criteria of what acts and circumstances constitute a crime and how the offender should be punished. Nothing more. We have a great many criminal statutes in place yet people are constantly committing acts that are contrary to them. If laws did prevent crime, we would have no need for prosecution and defense attorneys, judges, jails or law enforcement. Just having the laws in place would ensure that no person ever committed a crime.

-Donny