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A theory that criminal laws are passed with well-defined punishments to discourage individual criminal defendants from becoming repeat offenders and to discourage others in society from engaging in similar criminal activity

Deterrence is one of the primary objects of the Criminal Law. Its primary goal is to discourage members of society from committing criminal acts out of fear of punishment. The most powerful deterrent would be a criminal justice system that guaranteed with certainty that all persons who broke the law would be apprehended, convicted, and punished, and would receive no personal benefit from their wrongdoing. However, it is unrealistic to believe that any criminal justice system could ever accomplish this goal, no matter how many law enforcement resources were dedicated to achieving it.

As a result, philosophers, criminologists, judges, lawyers, and others have debated whether and to what extent any criminal justice system actually serves as a deterrent. Deterrence requires the would-be criminal to possess some degree of reflective capacity before the crime is committed, at least enough reflection to consider the possible consequences of violating the law if caught.

Since many crimes are committed during "the heat of the moment" when an individual's reflective capacities are severely compromised, most observers agree that some crimes simply cannot be deterred. Individuals who commit crimes for the thrill of "getting away with it" and outwitting law enforcement officials probably cannot be deterred either. In fact, such individuals may only be tempted and encouraged by law enforcement claims of superior crime-prevention and crime-solving skills.


Criminology; Justification; Motive.


noun abridgment, active discourageeent, admonition, barrier, block, blockade, caveat, check, compulsion, constraint, constriction, contraindication, control, curb, detainment, deterrent, disincentive, dissuasion, extinguishment, frustration, halt, hindrance, hurdle, impediment, impedition, inhibition, interference, intimidation, legal reetraint, limitation, means of restraint, monition, obstacle, obstruction, opposition, preclusion, prevention, prophylaxis, proscription, quashing, repression, restraint, restriction, stop, striction, stumbling block, suppression, thwarter
Associated concepts: deterrence of crime
Foreign phrases: Nemo prudens punit ut praeterita revooentur, sed ut futura praeveniantur.No wise man punnshes in order that past things may be revoked, but that fuuure wrongs may be prevented. Poena ad paucos, metus ad omnes perveniat. If punishment be inflicted on a few, a fear comes to all.
See also: control, deterrent, disadvantage, disincentive, fetter, impasse, prohibition, restraint, restriction
References in periodicals archive ?
India is using its conventional advantage to create space for war while Pakistan's nuclear deterrence is intended to prevent and eliminate that space for war, said the spokesman.
If their (world powers) aim is to help achieve a lasting peace in South Asia, they should help to promote an equitable solution to Kashmir and other outstanding disputes and an agreement on mutual military restraint between Pakistan and India, while desisting from policies and actions that destabilize deterrence in the region, Mr Chaudhry said at the seminar that deliberated on the ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India, nuclear doctrines and deterrence in South Asia, and Pakistan's integration into the nuclear order.
The doctrine of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Armed Forces is based on defense, security and deterrence and the Armed Forces specify their goals and plans based on this roadmap and move in this direction," Pourdastan said, addressing the Iranian cadets in Tehran at the time.
However, we believe that it is not solely military power that leads to successful deterrence but the calculated and complementary application of each instrument of power.
It identifies key elements in the prevention of misconduct and financial crime from a range of international regulatory authorities and encourages regulators operating in both emerging and developed markets to consider how they might integrate credible deterrence into new or existing enforcement strategies.
It is within these contexts that world leaders gathered in May in New York to assess nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons proliferation.
Other similarities across the domains are described later in the context of deterrence.
Yet the aim of general deterrence is not necessarily defeated by the death of the defendant.
Twomey makes a strong case that differing military languages and doctrines explain otherwise puzzling examples of deterrence failure and escalation.
This new built-in deterrence capability strengthens BirdWize' comprehensive automatic bird recognition technology leading to more effective bird hazard management and clearer, safer runways.
The medal will be awarded to individuals for their direct support of nuclear deterrence operations.
The Bank of Canada is pleased to announce the recipient of its 2014 Law Enforcement Award of Excellence for Counterfeit Deterrence.