Criminal law is the area of law that relates to prohibited conduct in society. When government leaders take steps to ban certain actions, they create crimes. Criminal law is the area of law that involves enforcing criminal law as well as defending against allegations of violations of criminal law.

The purpose of outlawing conduct is to protect society. Law makers typically pass a law with the belief that it’s for the public good. Criminal laws must be applied evenly to everyone. Lawmakers can’t make a law that targets only one person. The purposes of punishing criminal offenders include retribution, deterring certain behaviors, preventing additional offenses and rehabilitation of offenders.

What makes a law a crime?
An act isn’t a crime just because government officials prohibit the behavior. Instead, a behavior is a crime because of the penalties that are attached to a violation. In the case of a crime, a person’s freedom is usually on the line.

Each crime carries a maximum penalty. That penalty is the most amount of time that a person can spend in jail if they’re convicted of the offense. A criminal offense often has other penalties such as a fine, probation and placing a record of the offense on a person’s public, criminal history. However, the distinguishing characteristic of criminal law is that a person who commits a criminal offense might spend time in jail or prison.