There are different ways to categorize crime: criminal and civil offenses, serious and minor offenses, or violent and non-violent crimes. However, the basic types of crimes that exist are felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Felonies are serious crimes such as murder, manslaughter, robbery with violence, treason, and most sexual offenses. Felonies often attract serious punishment which may include imprisonment for many years and hefty fines (Montaldo, 2018). Misdemeanors are considered less serious crimes than felonies. Montaldo (2018) observes that misdemeanors are often punished by jail terms of less than a year. Infractions are petty crimes that see offenders part with small fines without necessarily appearing in court. Most traffic offences such as failure to observe speed limits and parking at the wrong places are classified as petty crimes.
Crimes and corresponding punishment are outlined under the Penal Code in most jurisdictions. For one to be found guilty of an offense, many factors are considered, some of which include the act committed or omitted, mental capacity, and extent of damage caused. Montaldo (2018) establishes that everybody involved in committing a crime, the main perpetrator and the accomplices, is charged. The general premise of crime and punishment is that punishment should outweigh the benefits of crime to make crime undesirable. In law, punishment is based on minimum and maximum terms (Montaldo, 2018).
There are two main types of punishment namely incarceration (imprisonment) and fines. Incarceration involves being held in prison while fines are a sum of money paid for a crime committed. An offender who is found guilty can be sentenced to either punishment or a combination of both. Montaldo (2018), observes that crimes can be classified according to degrees to determine the severity of punishment. For example, first-degree murder is often punished by death or life imprisonment without a possibility of parole. Other forms of punishments include rehabilitation mostly for psychotic offenders and community service for minor offenses.
Ethical Explanation for Relationship between Crimes and Punishment in the U.S
The U.S has several states with each having its own structure of crime and punishment. However, the U.S generally experiences different forms of crime compared to other parts of the world due to its dynamic demographics such as races. For example, violent crimes and aggravated murder are prevalent. Their punitive measures are strict and precise with millions being held in prison.
Ethics, crime, and punishment are closely related. Ethics define what is right and wrong in a society. It is a measure of standard that draws a line between what is good or bad. In most cases, unethical behavior amounts to crime. For example, stealing is morally and criminally wrong. It is a states’ moral duty to punish crime (Cohen, 1940). According to Cohen (1940), crime is a violation of moral order and punishment is a way to restore ethical standards in a society. Incarcerating an offender found guilty of robbery protects the society from the offender and teaches other potential offenders that robbing is wrong. The punishment system seeks to give a victim relief consistent with the principle of fairness. For instance, the award of damages in civil cases is said to restore the victim to their initial position before crime was committed against them.
The ultimate incapacitation of crime is capital punishment. In the U.S, death sentences have previously been carried out through several ways such as lethal injections. Further, the prison conditions are said to be dismal due to congestion. Such extreme punishments continue to be challenged on an ethical basis. In fact, Cohen (1940) argues that states should ensure the value of human life for all individuals is upheld.
- Cohen, M. R. (1940). Moral Aspects of the criminal law. The Yale Law Journal, 49(6), 987. doi:10.2307/792227
- Montaldo, C. (2018, May 8). 4 classifications of criminal offenses. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/types-of-criminal-offenses-970835