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Law and the Parameters of Acceptable Deviance


Mark A. Edwards


William Mitchell College of Law


Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, Vol. 97, p. 49, 2006
William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 75

Abstract:     
It can be useful to think of law as a standard, around which we construct parameters of acceptable deviance (PADs). Behavior that occurs within PADs usually is not sanctioned, despite its illegality; behavior that occurs outside PADs is often sanctioned, regardless of its legality. This article examines the construction of PADs arguing that they are the product of continuous interplay between formal law and the normative sensibilities of the regulated and their regulators. The article then attempts to explain why institutions of regulation and enforcement cannot formally acknowledge PADs without altering them. Finally, it demonstrates the explanatory power of PADs applied to a range of otherwise puzzling or bedeviling legal phenomena, such as racial profiling, jury nullification, and even the Supreme Court's controversial decision in Bush v. Gore.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 53

Keywords: deviance, society, enforcement, negotiation, profiling, nullification, norms, behavior

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Date posted: July 20, 2007 ; Last revised: March 10, 2011

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Mark A., Law and the Parameters of Acceptable Deviance. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, Vol. 97, p. 49, 2006; William Mitchell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 75. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1001450

Contact Information

Mark A. Edwards (Contact Author)
William Mitchell College of Law ( email )
875 Summit Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55115
United States
651.290.6441 (Phone)
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