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Interrelated with criminal acts are the choice theories that have been put forward to explain why people engage in criminal acts. Along with this, choice theories involve the rational choice theory, the classical theory of crime, and the contemporary choice theory. As such, these theories have been formulated based on crime being committed as a result of one’s choice. So to speak, there has been an ongoing concern to determine the reason why people engage in criminal acts or rather deviant behavior. To answer the question of why people engage in criminal acts, the above-named theories have been put forward. It is from this perspective that they will be described and their relationship with a crime be brought into view. At the same time, the impact of these theories on the common models used by society to determine crime will be tackled. By so doing, a description of the models will be provided and the relationship that exists. With these theories, it is very important to discuss the rational choice theory.

Choice Theories of Criminal Acts

Rational choice theory when used in this context brings the aspect that criminals are rational actors. As a matter of fact, the rational choice theory has its roots in the classical school of criminology which was developed by the Italian social thinker Cesare Beccaria. According to Siegel (2008), people choose all behavior inclusive of criminal behavior. Equally, the choices made by people are designed to please them and reduce pain. At the same time, criminal choices can be controlled by fear of punishment and the severity of punishment can be used to control criminal behavior.

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Along with this, the classical theory of crime puts it that humans are fundamentally rational and enjoy free will. Actually, the classical theory of crime has two systems of belief that individuals exhibit free will when they choose to engage in criminal behavior, and they in fact act rationally when making these choices. Needless to state, humans have a capability to understand themselves and as such, they act to promote their own self of interests.

The contemporary choice theory takes another point of view regarding choice. In this sense, people as rational beings if are caught committing a crime it is for the reason that they are sloppy thinkers and imperfect in their decision-making. The version of the contemporary choice theory states that the decision to commit a crime is being shaped by human emotions and thought processes. The theory also acknowledges that other influences lead to ones’ decision to commit the crime. In this regard, social relationships, individual traits, and capabilities along with environmental characteristics can influence criminal acts. Therefore, human behavior is both willful and determined (Siegel, 2008, p.93). This suggests that human behavior is out of free will given to each and everyone in the world.

On the other hand, crime is determined by the prevailing circumstances that comprise issues like social relationships, individual traits, and capabilities along with the environmental characteristics. In line with this, the contemporary rational choice approach puts it that a rational criminal evaluates the risk of apprehension, the potential value of the criminal enterprise, and the seriousness of the expected punishment and his or her immediate criminal gain (Siegel, 2008). When a criminal, in this case, commits a crime, it is for the reason that he or she chooses an illegal path to obtain the goals that might otherwise have been out of reach. Rational choice theorists view crime from the perspectives of both the offense and offender-specific. Actually, rational choice theorists have a utilitarian belief that a man rationally weighs costs and benefits, means and ends, and then makes a rational choice (Siegel, 2008, p.94). It is important at this point to point out that criminals choose where and when to commit a crime and whom to target.

The decision to commit a crime also depends on the type of crime, the time and place of crime along the target crime. From the point of view of a rational choice theorist, criminal acts are committed as a result of a rational and well-calculated decision making to commit the crime. Therefore, it has been in use in courts to make the punishments severe to deter crime. This is to suggests that criminals will find it more painful to commit a crime than the goal and pleasure attained in committing the crime (Siegel, 2008). Generally, rational choice theory puts it that, it is as a result of pleasure gained in committing a crime versus the cost of committing the crime.

In the same line of thought, models are hypothetical tools and in this case, they are used to bring about the control of crime. There are common models used by society to determine which acts are considered to be criminal. In line with this, there are economic models of crime used to determine criminal acts. These models consider individuals to be rational decision-makers. Actually, committing a criminal act is a decision based on the perceived costs and benefits associated with crime in comparison to those associated with legal work. Needless to state, certainty and severity of punishment and legal labor market opportunities impact criminal behavior. In recent times, models of crime take into consideration non-economic variables such as social interactions, neighborhood effects, habits, and effects of rehabilitation and imprisonment (Siegel, 2008). Therefore, the common models that are used by society to determine criminal acts are based on as well as impacted by choice theories of crime.

Outstandingly, there is the crime control model and the due process model. The crime control model takes the legislature as opposed to courts as its validating authority. This brings into view the fact that efficient police investigations and prosecutions could control crime since crime is committed out of choice in that one chooses to maximize pleasure over the pain. If the pain is increased, perhaps the crime can be controlled as many will do a cost-benefit analysis and will prefer not to commit a crime rather. This is where the application of the rational choice theory of crime comes in.

On the other hand, the due process model is commonly used in considering which acts are criminal. Due process has its validating authority as the Supreme Court as it places less emphasis on the efficiency and guilty pleas. This process starts with skepticism regarding the morality and utility of criminal sanction. With these models as examples, the issue of law in criminology plays a great role, and as such, law has been playing a great role in determining crime acts and judging them with the sole aim of increasing the pain of committing a crime than the pleasure associated. This brings about the impact that has been brought about by choice theories in the making of models that are commonly used by society to determine crime acts.


In summation, while dealing with criminal acts and choices, several choice theories come into view. As such, there is the rational choice theory, the classical theory of crime, and the contemporary choice theory. From the point of view of these theories, committing a criminal act comes as a result of choice. As a result, models of determining which acts are considered as a crime by society have employed the choice theories. For instance, the use of Packer’s control theory along with the due process theory has been used by society in dealing with crime. As such, it can therefore be stated that crime models have been made using the choice theories just as it has been highlighted.

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