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What Is a Scofflaw?

An individual who knowingly continue to commit civil or criminal offenses are can be referred to as scofflaw. This term is reserved for repeat offenders or habitual offenders. Such offenses may include ignoring court summons or an actually violating the law.

The origin of the word scofflaw originated during the Prohibition era in the United States to describe individuals who disregarded rules regarding alcohol consumption. A contest was held to find a word to describe such an individual with an award amounting to $200 US Dollars to be given to the person whose suggested name won. 2 persons entered the word scofflaw into the competition and won the award in 1924. The purpose of the contest was to provide an avenue for neologisms that would be used and eventually added to the English vocabulary.

The blatant disregard for the law is characteristic of a scofflaw. A person can only be called a scofflaw if he or she knowingly commits an offense or violation. It is also possible for a scofflaw to have little regard or no regard at all for the law, shown by the act of belittling or making fun of any law or anything that relates to a system of rules.

An individual who habitually litters may be called a scofflaw as well as a person who does not regularly pay taxes, wear seatbelts, or do a more severe offense or violation of the law. However, it is possible that scofflaws are limited to minor offenses or violations while the word outlaw is given to an individual who commits more serious criminal offenses.

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