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.
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