An unenforced law (also symbolic law) is a crime which is illegal, but is usually not penalized by a jurisdiction. It is a law which is usually ignored by law enforcement, therefore such laws have no consequences. Some people have criticized such laws claiming that it indicates sometimes the law means what it says, sometimes it does not.
The law may be put in place simply for symbolic reasons, but without actual prosecutions taking place. For example speeding is illegal, but patrol officers usually ignore motorists who are 5-10 miles an hour over the legal limit. Automated ticketing systems like computerized cameras will still issue fines in these circumstances in some but not all US states.
Laws that are symbolic typically attempt to persuade rather than enforce, punish or prevent. An example was adultery in the US state of Colorado, where it was prohibited by law (since repealed), but was not punishable in any way. In Maryland adultery is prohibited by law with just a $10 fine, but not punishable by imprisonment.
- De facto
- De jure
- Statute Law Revision Act
- Victimless crime
- Modern criminal law; Wayne R. LaFave; P 53
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- "Geschwisterpaar bringt Inzest-Verbot ins Wanken" (in German). 22 May 2011.
- Law as symbolic form Deniz Coskun
- Prospective magazine retrieved 29 January 2012
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