decriminalization | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Decriminalization refers to the process of reducing or eliminating criminal penalties for a particular activity or behavior.

It is distinct from legalization, which completely removes all legal restrictions on an activity. When an activity is decriminalized, it is still technically illegal, but the penalties for engaging in the activity are reduced or eliminated. Decriminalization is often used as a policy approach to reduce the harms associated with criminalizing certain behaviors, such as drug use or possession, or to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system. Decriminalization is often contrasted with criminalization, which involves implementing or strengthening criminal penalties for certain behaviors.

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Last Modified: 01/09/2023


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