Amongst the limits that present-day European criminal law theory tends to impose on the state's power to criminalize conduct, the principle of "exclusive protection of legal goods" occupies a prominent place. The criminal law is only needed when the protection of legal goods requires making use of it. But not all legal goods should be transformed into legal goods protected by the criminal law. European theorists have not normally made reference to the latter concept, as they have usually limited themselves to speaking of "legal goods" in general terms. In this short piece I would like to highlight the usefulness of clearly distinguishing between legal goods that can be adequately protected by the law in general and legal goods whose protection can only be secured by the criminal law.
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