This seems like a pretty straight forward answer. A more detailed definition is “a body of rules and statutes that define conduct prohibited by the government because it threatens and harms public safety and welfare and that establishes punishment to be imposed for the commission of such acts.”
Our law of crimes and punishments is written in the Texas Penal Code. As a criminal defense attorney in Texas, I am constantly referring to the Penal Code.
The objective of the Penal Code is to establish a system of prohibitions, penalties, and correctional measures to deal with conduct that unjustifiably and inexcusably causes or threatens harm to those individual or public interests for which state protection is appropriate.
It is intended to ensure public safety by a deterrent influence of the penalties, rehabilitation of those convicted of violations, and use punishment necessary to prevent likely recurrence of the criminal behavior. It also defines and grades criminal offenses to give fair warning of what is prohibited and of the consequences of the violation and prescribe penalties that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offense.
Another key objective of the Penal Code is to “guide and limit the exercise of official discretion in law enforcement to prevent arbitrary or oppressive treatment of persons suspected, accused, or convicted of offenses and to define the scope of state interest in law enforcement against specific offenses.”
So, our Penal Code not only defines what specific crimes are, they also define and provide a balance of power against our government overreaching in their law enforcement power. It is difficult to convey just how important this is. Without the limitation of government enforcement, we would no longer live in a country that is free.