Penal Law is More Interesting Than Ever

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There was a time when penal law, the branch of law that deals with crime and punishment, was strictly the domain of barristers and law clerks, but pop culture has changed that. Modern TV shows, in particular, are filled with enough forensic science and cold-case detective files to satisfy the most finicky crime buff. There is also a curious side-benefit of the widespread appeal of these crime shows: more and more people are enrolling in schools offering courses in penal law, criminal investigation and forensic studies.

Penal law, often called criminal law, is separate from civil law, which deals with non-criminal laws such as property disputes, but it wasn’t always so. Up until the mid-1700s, all law was lumped together; soon European law recognized criminal activity as a separate threat to society and mandated criminal trials in courtrooms. It is these laws that allow us to exist in a society, and that guarantee protection to everyone.

People are drawn to a career in criminal law because it often involves solving and prosecuting exciting cases like murder, fraud, and treason. Even those viewers who have no intention of becoming sleuths or professional investigators have learned much from these TV shows. Thousands of new law school applicants and crime scene investigation students are influenced by the new technology they see on TV. Let’s hope they don’t think all crimes are solved in 60 minutes.

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