Criminalization is the process of declaring any activity to be illegal. It is the legislation that defines the word "crime." Ongoing studies are conducted across the nation to determine whether any act should be criminalized, and if so, what type of punishment it should incur. Many of these decisions are influenced by input that is given by people who specialize in studying and analyzing crime. Some examples of crimes include homicide, fraud, manslaughter and assault.
This is the study of criminals, their behavior and all aspects of crime. Those who practice this science are known as Criminologists, and it is their studies that are often taken into account when lawmakers are creating new rules and policies. These experts will investigate the history of crime and those who commit it, data that relates to criminal activities, and the rates of crimes in different geographical locations. They put all of this data together and write up reports which are then reviewed by law enforcement personnel, lawyers, judges and others who work in crime-related professions. These findings are often the basis of new rules being created, certain deeds being declared illegal and even existing crimes losing their criminal status and becoming legal again (Decriminalization).
How a Law is Created
The Legislative Branch of the government is responsible for the first step toward creating new laws and criminalizing previously legal activities. This branch is made up of the Senate, which includes two members from every state, and the House of Representatives, which has a total of 435 members. The number of Representatives from each state is based on the population of that state.
Members of the Legislative Branch may propose new laws or bills; citizens have the right to petition their state representative for a new law they hope to have created. When a representative submits a bill or new piece of legislation, they are known as the Sponsor of that bill. There is no limit on the number of co-sponsors any bill may have. Once the bill has been presented, it will be studied by a committee, and possibly one or more sub-committees. These groups will thoroughly research any proposed bill, and may even host hearings to give the public an opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter.
Once the bill has been examined, it will either receive a positive, negative or possibly neutral recommendation. Many bills are given amendments, which are added subjects, guidelines or suggestions to the bill. Once this process has been completed, the proposed bill may be put on the official Calendar, where it will be discussed and finally voted upon. When a bill that recommends a particular activity be declared illegal is passed, that activity has been officially criminalized.
The Judicial Branch
After an act is criminalized, the offending parties may be brought to court to have their cases tried in front of a judge. It is then up to that judge to interpret the law and issue a final outcome for the accused party. In this sense, the judicial branch plays a roll in the act of criminalization and determining what form of punishment is suitable for those who break new laws.
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