Legal Dictionary

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Decriminalization

Decriminalization is an official act that is accomplished by legislation in which an act or deed, formerly criminal, is made non-criminal and without punitive sanctions. Homosexuality, breastfeeding in public, abortion and recreational drug use are a few of the activities that have decriminalized by various states over the years. Decriminalized acts, although no longer crimes, may still be subject to penalties. For example, a person who is caught smoking marijuana might still be subject to a fine, even if the legislature has changed the law so that recreational use is no longer a crime.