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Legality, Punishment, and Presumption of Innocence

The Principle of Legality

The principle of legality is one of the fundamental principles in modern criminal law. Its primary purpose is to protect a person from being wrongly charged with any crime. It means that nobody can be convicted of a crime without a trial or accused of a crime if it did not constitute an offense when the action was committed. Moreover, in addition to the protection from arbitrary and retroactive punishment, the principle of legality ensures that the law is apparent and ascertainable.

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The jurisdiction of the principle of legality covers all individuals that are charged with a crime. It means that it applies to everyone who has committed an act that has not been proclaimed as illegal at the time. Therefore, the timing is not significant: the principle of legality is not just for those who were the first to commit a new crime. It covers all cases that took place before such actions started to constitute an offense. However, it must be acknowledged that mere ignorance of the law is already in place cannot be counted as a foundation for the principle of legality. The main objective of defense, in this case, would be to prove the retroactive character of the crime.

Theories of Criminal Punishment

Theories of criminal punishment consider the character of punitive measures that are believed to be the most effective in the law system. The framework of criminal sanctions, that these theories presuppose, can differ depending on the current political situation or social trends. Nowadays, law and criminology scholars single out several theories on ways of addressing crimes, punishing offenders, and preventing individuals from violating existing laws.

One of them is the deterrence theory that focuses on preventing illegal acts by inflicting fear of punishment onto people. The supporters of this theory believe that setting an example can avert the public from committing crimes. Moreover, the theory also presupposes that specific deterrence cases can influence the behavior of individuals who have already been punished. This type of penalty’s effectiveness is difficult to evaluate as following the law cannot be explained only by the fear of punishment, and the number of recidivism cases proves the specific deterrence theory’s problematics.

Another theory discusses incapacitation and keeping offenders in criminal justice institutions. According to proponents of this approach, crimes can be prevented by the physical removal of criminals. It means that in some severe cases, the death penalty or life-long sentence can be implemented. This approach involves imprisoning offenders, and it has been used for many centuries. However, it has recently raised many debates about its cost-efficiency, humanity, and effectiveness.

The third theory promotes rehabilitation and the necessity to help offenders with changing their behavior patterns. This theory’s practical side involves the organization of various educational, training, and other treatment programs that would allow transforming criminals. Although the re-offense rates show that rehabilitation programs might not work, I identify with this theory as it concentrates not only on punishment and removing offenders but also on re-establishing them in society.

The Presumption of Innocence and Recordings of Crime

The presumption of innocence is one of the most fundamental legal principles that lies in the court system and is considered to be the basis of the modern trial process. It is a legal right that ensures the innocence of the prosecuted person until proven guilty. However, nowadays, with the recent developments in technology and the mass availability of audio and video recordings, the presumption of innocence principle has started to be threatened.

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As the presumption of innocence dictates jurors and judges not to be influenced by suspicion or indictment, being exposed to crime recordings might make it impossible to follow this principle. However, since the research suggests that “jurors make different assumptions about the guilt of a criminal defendant before the introduction of evidence”, this issue is just an addition to the problem (Scurich & John, 2017, p. 187). Therefore, it is essential to consider the presumption of innocence in a systemic way where the availability of crime recording will be one aspect of the discussion.


Scurich, N., & John, R.S. (2017). Jurors’ presumption of innocence. Journal of Legal Studies, 46(1), 186–206.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 6). Legality, Punishment, and Presumption of Innocence.

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"Legality, Punishment, and Presumption of Innocence." StudyCorgi, 6 Jan. 2022,

1. StudyCorgi. "Legality, Punishment, and Presumption of Innocence." January 6, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "Legality, Punishment, and Presumption of Innocence." January 6, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Legality, Punishment, and Presumption of Innocence." January 6, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Legality, Punishment, and Presumption of Innocence'. 6 January.

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