The Evolution Of Criminal Law: Historical Perspectives & Modern Challenges

Our modern legal system has been significantly influenced by historical facts and the perspectives that people have had throughout time. Even before we faced the modern challenges of criminal law, every civilization to this point had systems for criminal justice and legal systems that they expected citizens to adhere to. 

What has been the evolution of substantive criminal law? 

Ancient Civilizations and the Criminal Justice System

Criminal law reflects the society in which its constituents live and experience life. As far back as ancient Mesopotamia, there were laws in place that governed society. The Code of Hammurabi was written between 1755 and 1750 BC, and there were other forms of criminal codes including an Indian penal code and even Egyptian laws. 

These institutions strongly interacted with the civil liberties of their people. The legal norms in these civilizations were often quite harsh. They believed in reciprocal justice: An eye for an eye if you wronged someone or did not uphold the standard of conduct. 

Medieval Penal Codes

As we progress away from ancient civilizations, it is important to note the shift to a more religious and class-based penal code. Instead of the old eye for an eye policy, there were different punishments for refusing to follow the legal codes. 

Those punishments depended on what class you were in and what your role was in society with lesser punishments for those higher in the societies. 

It was around this time that religious influence started to factor into the fabric of legal systems. It wasn’t dominated by any one particular religion and you can find plenty of instances of both Christian and Islamic laws in the course of history. 

Our Modern Legal System and Its Challenges

We have made significant progress away from the harsh ways of early civilizations and have been replaced by kinder and gentler legal systems. Around the Industrial Revolution and into the mid-nineteenth century, there were rapid technical innovations in addition to the modifications made in legal codes. 

Today, our legal system is challenged by new issues such as drug abuse and cybercrime. We place a great deal of emphasis on rehabilitation rather than retribution. This means that we have a thorough system for incarceration, substance abuse treatment, and mental health help to keep some offenders from repeating their crimes. 

In other words, early police may have issued punishment immediately upon being called to the scene of a crime. Now, we have a structured precedent for how crimes should be handled and every person is entitled to due process under the law. 

Get Help for Criminal Law Proceedings

While some things are less dire than they used to be, you still need high-quality representation when facing charges for an alleged crime. Winnipeg criminal law firms like Brodsky Amy & Gould are here to help you navigate a complex criminal justice system and get the most favourable outcomes in your trial.

 Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you with your upcoming trial.