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NCJ Number: 82401 Find in a Library
Title: Problems of Criminalization and Decriminalization of Socially Detrimental Behavior (From Polizei und Kriminalpolitik, P 77-84, 1981 - See NCJ-82395)
Author(s): G Arzt
Corporate Author: Bundeskriminalamt
Germany (Unified)
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 8
Sponsoring Agency: Bundeskriminalamt
Wiesbaden, Germany 6200
Format: Document
Language: German
Country: West Germany (Former)
Annotation: Problems with the legal response to behaviors deemed socially harmful (e.g., drug abuse, sexual deviance, petty mass crimes, environmental pollution) exist at both the theoretical and practical levels. Changes of the law regarding such acts should be made only after weighing the cost-effectiveness of intensified criminal justice system involvement.
Abstract: Proposed changes of either criminalization or decriminalization of the legal codes involve controversies over definitions, the extent of the social harm, and the relationship of civil and criminal law. Enforcement and prosecution of persons exhibiting these behaviors becomes complicated. Public resistance to traffic and environmental regulations exemplify the problems of enforcing laws that can be broken without causing visible damage. Legal codes criminalizing harmful acts should define specific criteria of harm and emphasize victim crime reporting and testimony. Criminalization in the form of heightened penalties for acts already on the books as minor violations of public order may be less effective than intensified enforcement of the existing law. Furthermore, criminalization of socially detrimental acts may heighten a sense of persecution precipitating rather than hindering the behavior. Limitation of civil rights may be involved as may issues of coerced conformity. Formal decriminalization of petty theft and minor drug use is likely. Informal decriminalization can be counteracted through intensified crime awareness, targeted enforcement, and victim cooperation. Areas to be affected by informal decriminalization, including petty forms of theft, white-collar crime, and pollution, all fall within the purview of private litigation. The criminalization of new crime forms will place disproportionate burdens upon the law enforcement and court systems and will fail without attendant increases in resource appropriation.
Index Term(s): Citizen crime reporting; Citizen crime tolerance; Criminalization; Decriminalization; Deterrence; Germany; Law reform; Victimless crimes
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