St. Mary's Law Journal


George E. Glos


The United States holds a comparably higher crime rate than European countries in the area of homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, and incitation of riots. This article explores the differences existing in the treatment of serious crimes in the leading systems of criminal law and law enforcement. This study examines how the United States, compared with European countries, define subcategories of major crimes and establish the penalties, defenses, and the access to relief attached to each crime. Contrasted with the provisions of the various states of the United States, the European provisions are simpler and carry stiffer penalties. The object of the protracted terms of imprisonment is not only to utilize the retribution and deterrent elements of the punishment but to protect society from further crimes likely to committed by the offender. In homicide, the terms prescribed by the various European penal codes are generally of longer duration than their counterparts in the United States, and European courts tend to assess terms closer to the upper limit. Aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, and riot are, apart from homicide perhaps, the most serious crimes of violence known to the law and are thus similarly treated. For access to pleas of insanity, bail, probation, or parole, the United States and European Courts only agree on the limits of accessibility to the first, while the latter two are much more restricted in Europe. Lastly, European courts provide a quicker judicial process for criminal cases and restrict the opportunity for retrials. This study leans towards the conclusion that a simpler categorization of crime, with firm penalties and a speedier judicial process, leads to a society more deterred to commit crimes.


St. Mary's University School of Law