The Limits of the Criminal Law

Gerald Dworkin

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Criminal Law

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195314854
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Limits of the Criminal Law

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This chapter notes that the criminal law, like other normative systems for the regulation of behavior, has various kinds of limits. Laws might be limited by constitutional provisions. The chapter points out that there are two issues which should be kept distinct. The issue of legitimacy is the issue of what kinds of actions are within the legitimate scope of coercive action. This is the issue of jurisdiction. This is not the same as the question of what actions the state ought to require or forbid. This concerns which acts within the state's jurisdiction it ought to legislate about. This is the issue of the proper exercise of legitimate state power. Both of these are normative in character, but the former is the more fundamental. If the state is not entitled to coerce in some realm, the issue of whether it should is moot.

Keywords: criminal law; jurisdiction; legitimacy; state power; constitutional provisions

Article.  6972 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Law

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