The civil law concerns itself with disputes over contractual rights, the enforcement of commercial laws, and negligence. By contrast, criminal wrongs are marked by such a savage disregard for the rights of others that society as a whole has an interest in ensuring that the wrongdoer does not go unpunished. Criminal laws should not to be used to prosecute offenses that are civil in nature, including violations of economic regulations. Thus, breaching antitrust laws is properly civil in nature, as is selling goods above government-set prices, or submitting the wrong paperwork. There is no savage disregard for the rights of others in these offenses. By contrast, driving while disqualified or selling unlicensed pharmaceuticals are offenses of a criminal nature because of the potential bodily harm such behavior could cause others. Embezzlement and identification fraud are gross and willful violations of property rights and for this reason attract criminal jurisdiction.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove