This 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 affected 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 legislature react to the panic with disproportionally harsh punishments. This article also offers a possible explanation for 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.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2017 by The Regents of the University of California.
- Criminal justice system
- Hit-and-run traffic offenses
- Moral panic