Law is a very broad term, and so, even scholarshave trouble formulating a concrete definition. E. Adamson Hoebel comments that”to seek a definition of the legal is like the quest for the Holy Grail”.
Therefore, when attempting to define law, one must keep in mind that this is anabstract term, and the definer is free to choose a level of abstraction,subject that the choice must be significant in terms of the experience andpresent interest of those who are addressed. Benjamin Nathan Cardozo and Oliver Wendell HolmesJr. Cardozo define law as “a principle or rule of conduct so established as tojustify a prediction with reasonable certainty that will be enforced by thecourts if its authority is challenged.” Here, the law is centred around thecourts, which play an important role, and it is also based on judges, who makethe law on the bases of past experiences. Weber argues that law has three basic properties.Firstly, citizens should be pressured to follow the law by action, or threat ofaction by an external party, regardless of whether a person wants to obey thelaw, or does so out of habit. Secondly, these external actions should alwaysinvolve coercion or force. Thirdly, the third-party individuals who put thecoercive forces in place should have an official position to enforce the law.
This definition of law helps to distinguish between a law and a convention. Donald Black perceives law essentially asgovernmental social control. He maintains that multiple styles of law can beobserved in a single society, including penal, compensatory, therapeutic andconciliatory.1/5 Penalties are therefore considered one of thedistinguishing factors of a law. In some situations, a criminal statuteprescribes a particular punishment.
For example, a law may state that aparticular misdemeanour will carry a fine of €200, or a maximum sentence of 6months of jail time, or both. In more serious cases, the penalty of a crimewill not be found written in a country’s laws. When this happens, thepunishment is usually decided by a judge. 2 In Malta, the most lenient penalty is a fine,which is also known as an infringement notice. Fines are administered by arange of local government agencies, including universities and hospitals.Traffic, parking and transport-related offences are the most common.
Aninfringement notice is accompanied by a specific charge, which varies dependingon the infringement. If a fine is not paid in due course, the offender will besubject to additional fees. Should unpaid fines exceed this stage, more severelegal action will be taken.Another common type of penalty is the SuspendedSentences. This means that the offender is able to avoid a judicial punishment,usually jail time, unless a further crime is committed during a specifiedperiod of time. This is only possible for sentences shorter than 2 years.
Asuspended sentence is not offered in cases where the offender is alreadyserving a sentence of imprisonment, if the crime is committed during aprobationary period or in the case of repeat offences.If the terms of a suspended sentence are broken,the offender will face a prison sentence. This is confinement in a prison for aspecified amount of time.3If an offence has been committed in particularworkplaces, an offender’s warrant may be suspended, or even terminated. Thisalso happens in cases of traffic violations. This will occur when an employeehas acted inappropriately or unprofessionally in or outside the workplace, bringingdisrepute to a profession. In serious or repeated traffic violations, citizensalso face the possibility of the termination or suspension of one’s drivinglicence.
Probation is an allotted amount of time in which anoffender is released from detention, subject to a period of supervision by thestate. In Malta, the services offered by the Probation Services include anumber of orders which provide an extensive history on the offender, as well asrecommendations for the specific person, including community service andsentencing recommendations.4