3 rule of law unknown origin welcome to the fuzziest

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3. Rule of Law (unknown origin) -- Welcome to the fuzziest concept of all in Criminal Law. Lawyers claim to have an instinct for it, and it's said that only people who go to law school can ever understand it (Fletcher 1996). There's not much to go on with dictionaries or encyclopedias (Class assignment: Library and Internet search for definition), except for something extremely brief like "a principle, guide or norm that decisions should be made by the application of known principles, sometimes called the supremacy of law" (West 1984). That definition is a sham, and this lofty concept deserves better; so here goes. Rule of Law connotes Law with a capital L. There's no word for the meaning of law with a capital L in the English language. Other cultures have words like Recht (German), Droit (French), Pravo (Russian), Derecho (Spanish), and Mishpat (Hebrew). The closest English equivalent would be "Right", a term that appears in the translation of some important philosophical works, like Hegel's Philosophy of Right . It denotes a vision of government based on ideal Law, and was, ironically, referred to quite extensively during Nazi Germany in the notion of a Rechtsstaat .
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(#2) The concept of Actus Reus (a phrase meaning evil or bad deed) is derived from an old Latin phrase, and in many ways, is what separates Criminology from Theology because as much as we might like to, those of us who work with criminals all the time cannot be concerned with, nor inclined to punish, bad thoughts. Government is not concerned with evil unless it is manifested in behavior. Religion is concerned with evil as manifested in thought. actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea: an act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is guilty It is important to understand the legal definition of "behavior". An involuntary jerk of the knee while having your reflexes checked is behavior, but not legal behavior. Psychologists also talk about being able to condition someone to do something, like make them brush their hair back while speaking, without their knowing about it. This is also not behavior in the legal sense. The word in social science that comes closest to the legal definition of behavior is "action". Action is always conscious, voluntary, and purposive behavior. There's a line in Shakespeare's Hamlet where the gravedigger ponders Ophelia's drowning, and asks "Did the water come to Ophelia or did Ophelia come to the water." The difference is one of accidental death vs. suicide. Or take guns, for instance, "Does the finger pull the trigger or does the trigger pull the finger." To take another example, lawyers would claim there's a good deal of difference between someone thrusting their sword into someone who is standing still, and someone holding their sword outstretched while the victim comes running into it. The "action", you see, is different in each case and for each party to the crime, and although you and I may think it seems like splitting hairs, it's quite an important part of legal reasoning.
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