Mala Prohibitum: Obeying Basic, Non-Criminal Traffic Laws

Road Signs

People everywhere are unique and because everyone thinks differently, there are different reasons why individuals do not adhere to traffic laws. In their journal article, Decisions to Break or Adhere to the Rules of the Road,Viewed from the Rational Choice Perspective, Corbett and Simon (1992) claim that there are two major underlying perspectives that drive offenders to break the rules of the road. The first is the dispositional view, which says, “Offenders are driven by internal forces over which they have little control.” In other words, people do not follow the rules of the road because they have little to no control over their free will. Contrarily, the second view––the rational perspective––says that “[Offenders choose] to commit crimes in order to satisfy certain needs,” and that “[They] weigh up the opportunities, costs, and benefits of offending.” While traffic infractions (speeding tickets, texting while driving, running red lights, etc.) are not criminal offenses per se, the same principle can be applied to this situation because everyone has a choice of whether or not to obey traffic laws and common laws alike.

Stoplight Texting While Driving

When researching this this issue, I thought about traffic laws because they are common laws that are broken everyday. The main difference between traffic laws and criminal laws is their classification––mala in se and mall prohibitum––and in Latin, these words mean “wrong, in and of itself,” and “prohibited wrong,” respectively. For example, it is agreeable that rape is a mala in se crime because it is inherently wrong. On the contrary, not trimming one’s grass (which can lead to an ordinance violation in many jurisdictions) is considered a mala prohibitum crime because it is prohibited by the law; it is not inherently evil. Because this ordinance was most likely voted on by a board of supervisors or other similar committee, the ordinance does carry repercussions because it is a violation of a city or county code. Now that the difference between the different types of crimes is established, I will write more on the differences between white collar crimes, blue collar crimes, and green collar crimes tomorrow evening.

Inherently EvilThe Mala in se mind