To "sanction" can mean that "we approve", however, another meaning is to punish. The "sanction" of a crime actually refers to the punishment which is typically expressed as a monetary fine or a jail term.
Duhaime Legal Dictionary
This is a very unusual word with two contradictory meanings.
To "sanction" can mean to endorse, to ratify or to approve but confusingly, it can also mean to punish.
The "sanction" of a crime refers to the actual punishment, usually expressed as a fine or jail term.
1: to give official approval or consent to: "ratify"
2: to impose a sanction on
. Examples: a) under local rules Bagatelle's attorney is required to file a brief in response to the opposition's motion five days before the hearing, but is two days late. The judge accepts the documents, but imposes a $200 sanction on Bagatelle's attorney for the failure to file them on time. b) Campbell's lawyer wants to include a newly found expert in his list of witnesses, but the date for adding to the list has passed. The judge permits the added witness, but allows the opposition to take the expert's deposition, and imposes a sanction (fine) on Campbell to pay both sides' costs of the deposition and $500 attorney's fees to the opposing counsel. c) Defendant Danny Dipper says "you son-of-a-bitch" in court when the judge fines him $100 for jay-walking. The judge imposes a sanction of $200 and a day in jail for Danny's contempt of court. 2) v. to impose a fine or penalty as part of a judge's duty to maintain both order and fairness in court. 3) v. in international law, to impose economic constraints on trade against a country that violates international law or is guilty of human rights violations. 4) v. to allow or approve. This meaning is ironically in contrast to the other definitions of "sanction."
Lect Law Library
That part of a law which inflicts a penalty for its violation, or bestows a reward for its observance. Sanctions are of two kinds, those which redress civil injuries, called civil sanctions; and those which punish crimes, called penal sanctions.
The Free (Legal) Dictionary
To assent, concur, confirm, approve, or ratify. The part of a law that is designed to secure enforcement by imposing a penalty for violation of the law or offering a reward for its observance. A punitive act taken by one nation against another nation that has violated a treaty or International Law.
Sanction is a broad term with different meanings in different contexts. Sanction can be used to describe tacit or explicit approval. Used in this sense, the term usually is used in assigning liability to a party who was not actively involved in wrongdoing but who did nothing to prevent it. For example, if the upper-level managers of a business knew that their employees were using unfair employment practices and did nothing to stop them, it may be said that the managers sanctioned the unfair practices.
The term sanction also can describe disagreement and condemnation. In Criminal Law, a sanction is the punishment for a criminal offense. The criminal sanction for a criminal defendant varies according to the crime and includes such measures as death, incarceration, Probation, community service, and monetary fines.
In Civil Law, a sanction is that part of a law that assigns a penalty for violation of the law's provisions. The most common civil sanction is a monetary fine, but other types of sanctions exist. Depending on the case, a sanction may be the suspension or revocation of a business, professional, or hobby license, or a court order commanding a person to do or refrain from doing something. A sanction may even be tailored to the case at hand. For instance, under rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, if a party refuses to obey a discovery order, or an order to relinquish requested evidence, the court may order that the evidence sought be automatically construed in favor of the requesting party, refuse to allow the disobedient party to make claims or defenses related to the evidence, stay or postpone the case until the discovery order is obeyed, dismiss the action or render judgment for the requesting party, declare the disobedient party in Contempt of court, or make any other order that is just under the circumstances.