The Impact of Moral Panic on the Criminal Justice System – Hit and Run Traffic Offenses as a Case Study
New Criminal Law Review (2016)
45 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2016 Last revised: 9 May 2016
Date Written: January 10, 2016
The article reveals the relationship between the societal phenomenon of moral panic and the specific waves that it generates in the legal system. It focuses on hit and run traffic offenses and suggests that a moral panic with regard to these offenses uniquely impacted the Israeli criminal justice system during 2002-2013. The media generates concern, fear and outrage that are disproportionate to both the size and the nature of the offenses. In describing hit and run accidents, both the media and the courts demonize the drivers. Both the courts and the legislator react to the panic with disproportionally harsh punishments. The article also offers possible explanation as to why hit and run traffic offenses generated moral panic uniquely in Israel and why this occurred during the period 2002-2013. Although the article focuses on hit and run traffic offenses in Israel, it has more general implications: it reveals in detail the interaction between constructed public anxieties and systems charged with delivering justice.
Keywords: moral panic, hit-and-run, criminal justice system
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