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In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern
criminal law Criminal law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Crime, definitions of", in Cane and Conoghan (editors), ''
The New Oxford Companion to Law ''Oxford Companions'' is a book series A book series is a sequence of books having certain characteristics in common that are formally identified together as a group. Book series can be organized in different ways, such as written by the same aut ...
'', Oxford University Press, 2008 (), p. 263
Google Books
.
though
statutory A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) ...
definitions have been provided for certain purposes. The most popular view is that crime is a
category Category, plural categories, may refer to: Philosophy and general uses *Categorization Categorization is the ability and activity to recognize shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience of the world (such as O ...
created by
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
; in other words, something is a crime if declared as such by the relevant and applicable law. One proposed definition is that a crime or offence (or criminal offence) is an act harmful not only to some individual but also to a community, society, or the state ("a public
wrong A wrong (from Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early mediev ...

wrong
"). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law. The notion that acts such as
murder Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification (jurisprudence), justification or valid excuse (legal), excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought. ("The killing of another person w ...

murder
,
rape Rape is a type of sexual assault Sexual assault is an act in which one intentionally sexually touches another person without that person's consent Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. ...

rape
, and
theft Theft is the taking of another person's property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of pr ...

theft
are to be prohibited exists worldwide. What precisely is a criminal offence is defined by the
criminal law Criminal law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
of each relevant
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
. While many have a catalogue of crimes called the
criminal code A criminal code (or penal code) is a document that compiles all, or a significant amount of, a particular jurisdiction's criminal law Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It proscribes conduct perceived as threatening, ha ...
, in some
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary'' is the most-us ...
nations no such comprehensive statute exists. The state (
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Departmen ...

government
) has the power to severely restrict one's
liberty Broadly speaking, liberty is the ability to do as one pleases, or a right or immunity enjoyed by prescription or by grant (i.e. privilege). It is a synonym for the word freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change withou ...

liberty
for committing a crime. In modern societies, there are
procedures Procedure may refer to: * Medical procedure * Instructions or recipes, a set of commands that show how to achieve some result, such as to prepare or make something * Procedure (business), specifying parts of a business process * Standard operatin ...
to which investigations and
trial In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by i ...

trial
s must adhere. If found
guilty Guilty or The Guilty may refer to: * Guilt (emotion), an experience that occurs when a person believes they have violated a moral standard Law *Culpability, the degree to which an agent can be held responsible for action or inaction *Guilt (law), ...
, an offender may be
sentenced Sentenced was a Finnish gothic metal band that played melodic death metal in their early years. The band formed in 1989, in the town of Muhos, Finland, and broke up in 2005. Band history Early years (1988–1991) Sentenced started in 1988 as D ...
to a form of reparation such as a
community sentenceCommunity sentence or alternative sentencing or non-custodial sentence is a collective name in criminal justice 350px, United States criminal justice system flowchart Criminal justice is the delivery of justice Justice, one of the four cardi ...
, or, depending on the nature of their offence, to undergo
imprisonment Imprisonment (from , via French language, French , originally from atin, arrest, from , , "to seize") in law is the specific state of being physically incarcerated or confined in an institutional setting such as a prison. When it comes to iss ...
,
life imprisonment Life imprisonment is any sentence Sentence(s) or The Sentence may refer to: Common uses * Sentence (law), the punishment a judge gives to a defendant found guilty of a crime * Sentence (linguistics), a grammatical unit of language * Sentence ...

life imprisonment
or, in some
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
s,
death Death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living Living or The Living may refer to: Common meanings *Life, a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organi ...

death
. Some jurisdictions sentence individuals to programs to emphasize or provide for their
rehabilitation Rehabilitation or Rehab may refer to: Health * Rehabilitation (neuropsychology), therapy to regain or improve neurocognitive function that has been lost or diminished * Rehabilitation (wildlife), treatment of injured wildlife so they can be returne ...
while most jurisdictions sentence individuals with the goal of punishing them or a mix of the aforementioned practices. Usually, to be classified as a crime, the "act of doing something criminal" (''
actus reus ''Actus reus'' (), sometimes called the external element or the objective element of a crime, is the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoke ...
'') mustwith certain exceptionsbe accompanied by the "intention to do something criminal" (''
mens rea ''Mens rea'' (; Law LatinLaw Latin, sometimes written L.L. or L. Lat., and sometimes derisively called Dog Latin Dog Latin, also known as Cod Latin, macaronic Latin, mock Latin, or Canis Latinicus, refers to the creation of a phrase In everyd ...
''). While every crime violates the law, not every
violation of the law A wrong (from Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early mediev ...
counts as a crime. Breaches of
private law Private law is that part of a civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as E ...
(
tort A tort, in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ' is the most-used legal dict ...

tort
s and breaches of contract) are not automatically punished by the state, but can be enforced through
civil procedure Civil procedure is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
.


Overview

When informal relationships prove insufficient to establish and maintain a desired
social order The term social order can be used in two senses: In the first sense, it refers to a particular system of social structure In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergence, emergen ...
, a government or a state may impose more formalized or stricter systems of
social control Social control is a concept Concepts are defined as abstract ideas or general notions that occur in the mind, in speech, or in thought. They are understood to be the fundamental building blocks of thoughts and belief A belief is an Attitud ...
. With institutional and legal machinery at their disposal, agents of the state can compel
population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a city or town, region, country, or the world. Governments typically quantify the size of the resident population within their jurisdiction by a process called a ...

population
s to conform to codes and can opt to punish or attempt to reform those who do not conform. Authorities employ various mechanisms to regulate (encouraging or discouraging) certain behaviors in general. Governing or administering agencies may for example codify rules into laws, police citizens and visitors to ensure that they comply with those laws, and implement other policies and practices that legislators or administrators have prescribed with the aim of discouraging or preventing crime. In addition, authorities provide remedies and sanctions, and collectively these constitute a
criminal justice 350px, United States criminal justice system flowchart Criminal justice is the delivery of justice Justice, one of the four cardinal virtues, by Vitruvio Alberi, 1589–1590. Fresco, corner of the vault, studiolo of the Virgin of Mercy, Ma ...
system. Legal sanctions vary widely in their severity; they may include (for example) incarceration of temporary character aimed at reforming the
convict A convict is "a person found guilty Guilty or The Guilty may refer to: * Guilt (emotion), an experience that occurs when a person believes they have violated a moral standard Law *Culpability, the degree to which an agent can be held respons ...
. Some jurisdictions have penal codes written to inflict permanent harsh punishments: legal
mutilation Mutilation or maiming (from the Latin: ''mutilus'') is cutting off or causing injury to a body part of a person so that the part of the body is permanently damaged, detached or disfigured. Terminology In 2019, Dr. Michael H. Stone, Dr. Gary Br ...
,
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ' ...

capital punishment
, or
life without parole Life imprisonment is any sentence of imprisonment Imprisonment (from , via French language, French , originally from Latin , arrest, from , , "to seize") in law is the specific state of being physically incarcerated or confined in an instit ...

life without parole
. Usually, a
natural person In jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form ...
perpetrates a crime, but
legal persons In law, a legal person is any person or 'thing' (less ambiguously, any legal entity) that can do the things a human person is usually able to do in law – such as enter into contracts, Lawsuit, sue and be sued, Ownership, own property, and so on ...
may also commit crimes. Historically, several premodern societies believed that non-human
animal Animals (also called Metazoa) are multicellular A multicellular organism is an organism In biology, an organism () is any organic, life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organisms are composed of cells ...

animal
s were capable of committing crimes, and prosecuted and punished them accordingly. The sociologist Richard Quinney has written about the relationship between society and crime. When Quinney states "crime is a
social phenomenon Social phenomena (singular: social phenomenon) are individual and external occurrences within a society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sha ...
" he envisages both how individuals conceive crime and how populations perceive it, based on
societal norms Social norms are shared standards of acceptable Acceptability is the characteristic of a thing being subject to acceptance for some purpose. A thing is acceptable if it is sufficient to serve the purpose for which it is provided, even if it is fa ...
.


Etymology

The word ''crime'' is derived from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
root , meaning "I decide, I give judgment". Originally the Latin word '''' meant "
charge Charge or charged may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''Charge, Zero Emissions/Maximum Speed'', a 2011 documentary Music * Charge (David Ford album), ''Charge'' (David Ford album) * Charge (Machel Montano album), ''Charge'' (Mac ...
" or "cry of distress." The
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
word , from which the Latin
cognate In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
derives, typically referred to an intellectual mistake or an offense against the community, rather than a private or moral wrong. In 13th century
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
''crime'' meant "sinfulness", according to the
Online Etymology Dictionary The ''Online Etymology Dictionary'' is a free online dictionary In computer technology and , online indicates a state of connectivity and offline indicates a disconnected state. In modern terminology, this usually refers to an , but (especia ...
. It was probably brought to England as Old French (12th century form of
Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of info ...

Modern French
''crime''), from Latin ''crimen'' (in the genitive case: ''criminis''). In Latin, ''crimen'' could have signified any one of the following: "
charge Charge or charged may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''Charge, Zero Emissions/Maximum Speed'', a 2011 documentary Music * Charge (David Ford album), ''Charge'' (David Ford album) * Charge (Machel Montano album), ''Charge'' (Mac ...
,
indictment An indictment ( ) is a criminal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that use the concept of felony, felonies, the most serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that do not use the felonies concept often use th ...
, accusation; crime,
fault Fault commonly refers to: *Fault (geology), planar rock fractures showing evidence of relative movement *Fault (law), blameworthiness or responsibility Fault(s) may also refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * "Fault", a song by Taproot from ...
, offense". The word may derive from the Latin ''cernere'' – "to decide, to sift" (see
crisis A crisis (plural: "crises"; : "critical") is any event or period that will lead, or may lead, to an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, or all of society. Crises are negative changes in the human or environmental af ...
, mapped on
Kairos Kairos ( grc, ) is an ancient word meaning 'the right, critical, or opportune moment'. In , ''kairos'' also means 'weather'. It is one of two words that the ancient Greeks had for ''; the other being (). Whereas the latter refers to or , '' ...

Kairos
and
Chronos Chronos (; grc-gre, Χρόνος, (Modern Greek: ); Meaning - "time"), also spelled Khronos or Chronus, is the of in and later literature. Chronos is frequently confused with, or perhaps consciously identified with, the in antiquity du ...

Chronos
). But
Ernest Klein Ernest David Klein, (July 26, 1899, Szatmárnémeti – February 4, 1983, Ottawa Ottawa (, ; Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical ...
(citing
Karl Brugmann Karl Brugmann (16 March 1849 – 29 June 1919) was a Germany, German linguist. He is noted for his work in Indo-European linguistics. Biography He was educated at the universities of University of Halle, Halle and University of Leipzig, Leipzig. H ...

Karl Brugmann
) rejects this and suggests *cri-men, which originally would have meant "cry of distress". Thomas G. Tucker suggests a root in "
cry Crying or weeping is the dropping of tears Tears are a clear liquid secreted by the lacrimal glands (tear gland) found in the eyes of all land mammals (except for goats and rabbits). Their functions include lubricating the eyes (basal tears ...

cry
" words and refers to English plaint,
plaintiff A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an ''action'') before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy. If this search is successful, the court will issue Judgment (law), judgment ...
, and so on. The meaning "offense punishable by law" dates from the late 14th century. The Latin word is glossed in Old English by ''facen'', also "deceit, fraud, treachery", f. fake ''Crime wave'' is first attested in 1893 in
American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English is the m ...
.


Definition


England and Wales

Whether a given act or omission constitutes a crime does not depend on the nature of that act or omission; it depends on the nature of the legal consequences that may follow it. An act or omission is a crime if it is capable of being followed by what are called criminal proceedings.
Glanville Williams Glanville Llewelyn Williams (15 February 1911 – 10 April 1997) was a Welsh legal scholar who was the Rouse Ball Professor of English Law at the University of Cambridge , mottoeng = Literal: From here, light and sacred drau ...
, ''Learning the Law'', Eleventh Edition, Stevens, 1982, p. 3
The following definition of ''crime'' was provided by the Prevention of Crimes Act 1871, and applied for the purposes of section 10 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1908:


Scotland

For the purpose of section 243 of the
Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992c 52 is a UK Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a ...
, a crime means an offence punishable on
indictment An indictment ( ) is a criminal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that use the concept of felony, felonies, the most serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that do not use the felonies concept often use th ...
, or an offence punishable on
summary conviction Summary may refer to: * Abstract (summary) An abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis A thesis or dissertation (abbreviated diss.) is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree An academic ...
, and for the commission of which the offender is liable under the
statute A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) ...

statute
making the offence punishable to be imprisoned either absolutely or at the discretion of the court as an alternative for some other punishment.


Sociology

A
normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as bad or undesirable or impermissible. A norm Nor ...
definition A definition is a statement of the meaning of a term (a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical ...

definition
views crime as deviant behavior that violates prevailing
norms Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic disciplines * Norm (geology), an estimate of the idealised mineral content of a rock * Norm (philosophy), a standard in normative ethics that is prescriptive rather than a descriptive or explanato ...
cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior among two or more organisms within the same species, and encompasses any behavior in which one member affects the other. This is due to an int ...

cultural
standards prescribing how humans ought to behave normally. This approach considers the complex realities surrounding the concept of crime and seeks to understand how changing
social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology The word "Social" derives fr ...

social
,
political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cognitive process resulting in the selection ...

political
,
psychological Psychology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known ...

psychological
, and
economic An economy (; ) is an area of the production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products ( ...

economic
conditions may affect changing definitions of crime and the form of the legal, , and penal responses made by society. These
structural A structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A sy ...
realities remain fluid and often contentious. For example: as cultures change and the political environment shifts, societies may criminalise or decriminalise certain behaviours, which directly affects the
statistical Statistics is the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data Data are units of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers th ...

statistical
crime rate Crime statistics refer to systematic, quantitative results about crime, as opposed to crime news or anecdotes. Notably, crime statistics can be the result of two rather different processes: * scientific research, such as criminological studies, vict ...
s, influence the allocation of resources for the enforcement of laws, and (re-)influence the general
public opinion Public opinion is the collective opinion on a specific topic or voting intention relevant to a society. Etymology The term "public opinion" was derived from the French ', which was first used in 1588 by Michel de Montaigne Image:ArmoiriesM ...
. Similarly, changes in the collection and/or calculation of data on crime may affect the public perceptions of the extent of any given "crime problem". All such adjustments to
crime statistics Crime statistics refer to systematic, quantitative results about crime, as opposed to crime news or anecdotes. Notably, crime statistics can be the result of two rather different processes: * scientific research, such as criminological studies, vict ...
, allied with the experience of people in their everyday lives, shape attitudes on the extent to which the state should use law or social engineering to enforce or encourage any particular
social norm Social norms are shared standards of acceptable Acceptability is the characteristic of a thing being subject to acceptance for some purpose. A thing is acceptable if it is sufficient to serve the purpose for which it is provided, even if it is f ...
. Behaviour can be controlled and influenced by a society in many ways without having to resort to the criminal justice system. Indeed, in those cases where no clear
consensus Consensus decision-making or consensus politics (often abbreviated to ''consensus'') is group decision-making processes in which participants develop and decide on proposals with the aim, or requirement, of acceptance by all. The focus on es ...

consensus
exists on a given norm, the drafting of
criminal law Criminal law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
by the group in
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. In older works, p ...
to prohibit the behaviour of another group may seem to some observers an improper limitation of the second group's
freedom Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosophy and religion, it is associated with having free will and bein ...
, and the ordinary members of society have less respect for the law or laws in generalwhether the authorities actually enforce the disputed law or not.


Other definitions

Legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
s can pass laws (called ''mala prohibita'') that define crimes against social norms. These laws vary from time to time and from place to place: note variations in
gambling Gambling (also known as betting) is the wagering something of Value (economics), value ("the stakes") on an Event (probability theory), event with an uncertain outcome with the intent of winning something else of value. Gambling thus requires ...
laws, for example, and the prohibition or encouragement of
duelling A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two people, with matched weapons, in accordance with agreed-upon rules Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) is the set of activit ...
in history. Other crimes, called ''mala in se'', count as outlawed in almost all societies, (
murder Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification (jurisprudence), justification or valid excuse (legal), excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought. ("The killing of another person w ...

murder
,
theft Theft is the taking of another person's property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of pr ...

theft
and
rape Rape is a type of sexual assault Sexual assault is an act in which one intentionally sexually touches another person without that person's consent Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. ...

rape
, for example).
English criminal law English criminal law concerns Offence (law), offences, their prevention and the consequences, in England and Wales. Criminal conduct is considered to be a wrong against the whole of a community, rather than just the private individuals affected. ...
and the related criminal law of
Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existenc ...

Commonwealth
countries can define offences that the courts alone have developed over the years, without any actual legislation:
common law offence Common law offences are crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsa ...
s. The courts used the concept of ''
malum in se ''Malum in se'' (plural ''mala in se'') is a Latin phrase meaning ''wrong'' or ''evil in itself''. The phrase is used to refer to conduct assessed as sinful or inherently wrong by nature, independent of regulations governing the conduct. It is di ...
'' to develop various common law offences.


Criminalization

One can view criminalization as a procedure deployed by society as a preemptive harm-reduction device, using the threat of punishment as a deterrent to anyone proposing to engage in the behavior causing harm. The state becomes involved because governing entities can become convinced that the costs of not criminalizing (through allowing the harms to continue unabated) outweigh the costs of criminalizing it (restricting individual liberty, for example, to minimize harm to others). States control the process of criminalization because: * Even if victims recognize their own role as victims, they may not have the resources to investigate and seek legal redress for the injuries suffered: the enforcers formally appointed by the state often have better access to expertise and resources. * The victims may only want compensation for the injuries suffered, while remaining indifferent to a possible desire for deterrence. * Fear of
retaliation Revenge is defined as the act of committing a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance A grievance () is a wrong or hardship suffered, real or supposed, which forms legitimate grounds of complaint. In the past, th ...
may deter victims or witnesses of crimes from taking any action. Even in policed societies, fear may inhibit from reporting incidents or from co-operating in a Trial (law), trial. * Victims, on their own, may lack the economies of scale that could allow them to administer a penal system, let alone to collect any fines levied by a court. Garoupa and Klerman (2002) warn that a rent-seeking government has as its primary motivation to maximize revenue and so, if offenders have sufficient wealth, a rent-seeking government will act more aggressively than a social welfare function, social-welfare-maximizing government in enforcing laws against minor crimes (usually with a fixed penalty such as parking and routine traffic violations), but more laxly in enforcing laws against major crimes. * As a result of the crime, victims may die or become incapacitated.


Labelling theory

The label of "crime" and the accompanying social stigma normally confine their scope to those activities seen as injurious to the general population or to the state, including some that cause serious loss or damage to individuals. Those who apply the labels of "crime" or "criminal" intend to assert the hegemony of a dominant population, or to reflect a consensus of condemnation for the identified behavior and to justify any punishments prescribed by the state (if due process, standard processing trial (law), tries and conviction (law), convicts an accused person of a crime).


Natural-law theory

Justifying the state's use of coercion, force to coerce compliance with its laws has proven a consistent theoretical problem. One of the earliest justifications involved the theory of natural law. This posits that the nature of the world or of human beings underlies the standards of morality or constructs them. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the 13th century: "the rule and measure of human acts is the reason, which is the first principle of human acts". He regarded people as by nature rationality, rational beings, concluding that it becomes morally appropriate that they should behave in a way that conforms to their rational nature. Thus, to be valid, any law must conform to natural law and coercing people to conform to that law is morally acceptable. In the 1760s, William Blackstone described the thesis: : "This law of nature, being co-eval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original." But John Austin (legal philosophy), John Austin (1790–1859), an early Legal positivism, positivist, applied utilitarianism in accepting the calculating nature of human beings and the existence of an objective morality. He denied that the legal validity of a norm depends on whether its content conforms to morality. Thus in Austinian terms, a moral code can objectively determine what people ought to do, the law can embody whatever norms the legislature decrees to achieve social utility, but every individual remains free to choose what to do. Similarly, H. L. A. Hart, H.L.A. Hart saw the law as an aspect of sovereignty, with lawmakers able to adopt any law as a means to a moral end. Thus the necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth of a proposition of law simply involved internal logic and consistency, and that the state's agents used state power with Social responsibility, responsibility. Ronald Dworkin rejects Hart's theory and proposes that all individuals should expect the equal respect and concern of those who govern them as a fundamental political right. He offers a theory of compliance overlaid by a theory of deference (the citizen's duty to obey the law) and a theory of enforcement, which identifies the legitimate goals of enforcement and punishment. Legislation must conform to a theory of legitimacy, which describes the circumstances under which a particular person or group is entitled to make law, and a theory of legislative justice, which describes the law they are entitled or obliged to make. There are natural-law theorists who have accepted the idea of enforcing the prevailing morality as a primary function of the law. This view entails the problem that it makes any moral criticism of the law impossible: if conformity with natural law forms a necessary condition for legal validity, all valid law must, by definition, count as morally just. Thus, on this line of reasoning, the legal validity of a norm necessarily entails its moral justice. One can solve this problem by granting some degree of moral relativism and accepting that norms may evolve over time and, therefore, one can criticize the continued enforcement of old laws in the light of the current norms. People may find such law acceptable, but the use of state power to coerce citizens to comply with that law lacks moral justification. More recent conceptions of the theory characterise crime as the violation of individual and group rights, individual rights. Since society considers so many rights as natural (hence the term ''rights, right'') rather than man-made, what constitutes a crime also counts as natural, in contrast to laws (seen as man-made). Adam Smith illustrates this view, saying that a smuggling, smuggler would be an excellent citizen, "...had not the laws of his country made that a crime which nature never meant to be so." Natural-law theory therefore distinguishes between "criminality" (which derives from human nature) and "illegality" (which originates with the interests of those in
power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. In older works, p ...
). Lawyers sometimes express the two concepts with the phrases ''
malum in se ''Malum in se'' (plural ''mala in se'') is a Latin phrase meaning ''wrong'' or ''evil in itself''. The phrase is used to refer to conduct assessed as sinful or inherently wrong by nature, independent of regulations governing the conduct. It is di ...
'' and ''malum prohibitum'' respectively. They regard a "crime ''malum in se''" as inherently criminal; whereas a "crime ''malum prohibitum''" (the argument goes) counts as criminal only because the law has decreed it so. It follows from this view that one can perform an illegal act without committing a crime, while a criminal act could be perfectly legal. Many age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment thinkers (such as Adam Smith and the American List of national founders, Founding Fathers) subscribed to this view to some extent, and it remains influential among so-called Liberalism#Classical and modern, classical liberals and Libertarianism, libertarians.


History

Some religious communities regard sin as a crime; some may even highlight the crime of sin very early in legendary or mythological accounts of originsnote the tale of Adam and Eve and the theory of original sin. What one group considers a crime may cause or ignite war or conflict. However, the earliest known civilizations had codes of
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
, containing both civil law (common law), civil and penal rules mixed together, though not always in recorded form.


Ancient Near East

The Sumerians produced the earliest surviving written codes. Urukagina (reigned , short chronology timeline, short chronology) had an early code that has not survived; a later king, Ur-Nammu, left the earliest extant written law system, the Code of Ur-Nammu (), which prescribed a formal system of penalties for specific cases in 57 articles. The Sumerians later issued other codes, including the "code of Lipit-Ishtar". This code, from the 20th century BCE, contains some fifty articles, and scholars have reconstructed it by comparing several sources. Successive legal codes in Babylon, including the code of Hammurabi (), reflected Mesopotamian society's belief that law derived from the will of the deity, gods (see Babylonian law). Many states at this time functioned as theocracy, theocracies, with codes of conduct largely religious in origin or reference. In the Sanskrit texts of Dharmaśāstra (), issues such as legal and religious duties, code of conduct, penalties and remedies, etc. have been discussed and forms one of the elaborate and earliest source of legal code. Sir Henry Maine studied the ancient codes available in his day, and failed to find any criminal law in the "modern" sense of the word. While modern systems distinguish between offences against the "state" or "community", and offences against the "individual", the so-called penal law of ancient communities did not deal with "crimes" (Latin: ''crimina''), but with "wrongs" (Latin: ''delicta''). Thus the Hellenic laws treated all forms of
theft Theft is the taking of another person's property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of pr ...

theft
, assault,
rape Rape is a type of sexual assault Sexual assault is an act in which one intentionally sexually touches another person without that person's consent Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. ...

rape
, and murder as private wrongs, and left action for enforcement up to the victims or their survivors. The earliest systems seem to have lacked formal courts.


Rome and its legacy in Europe

The Ancient Rome, Romans systematized law and applied their system across the Roman Empire. Again, the initial rules of Roman law regarded assaults as a matter of private compensation. The most significant Roman law concept involved ''dominion''. The ''pater familias'' owned all the family and its property (including slaves); the ''pater'' enforced matters involving interference with any property. The ''Commentaries'' of Gaius (jurist), Gaius (written between 130 and 180 AD) on the Twelve Tables treated ''furtum'' (in modern parlance: "theft") as a
tort A tort, in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ' is the most-used legal dict ...

tort
. Similarly, assault and violent robbery involved trespass as to the ''pater's'' property (so, for example, the rape of a slave could become the subject of compensation to the ''pater'' as having trespassed on his "property"), and breach of such laws created a ''vinculum juris'' (an obligation of law) that only the payment of monetary compensation (modern "damages") could discharge. Similarly, the consolidated Germanic law, Teutonic laws of the Germanic tribes, included a complex system of monetary compensations for what courts would consider the complete range of criminal offences against the person, from murder down. Even though Rome abandoned its Roman Britain, Britannic provinces around 400 AD, the Germanic mercenarieswho had largely become instrumental in enforcing Roman rule in Britanniaacquired ownership of land there and continued to use a mixture of Roman and Teutonic Law, with much written down under the early Anglo-Saxon kings. But only when a more centralized English monarchy emerged following the Norman conquest of England, Norman invasion, and when the kings of England attempted to assert power over the land and its peoples, did the modern concept emerge, namely of a crime not only as an offence against the "individual", but also as a wrong against the "state". This idea came from common law, and the earliest conception of a criminal act involved events of such major significance that the "state" had to usurp the usual functions of the civil tribunals, and direct a special law or ''privilegium'' against the perpetrator. All the earliest English criminal trials involved wholly extraordinary and arbitrary courts without any settled law to apply, whereas the civil (delictual) law operated in a highly developed and consistent manner (except where a king wanted to raise money by selling a new form of writ). The development of the idea that the "state" dispenses justice in a court only emerges in parallel with or after the emergence of the concept of sovereignty. In continental Europe, Roman law persisted, but with a stronger influence from the Christian Church. Coupled with the more diffuse political structure based on smaller feudal units, various legal traditions emerged, remaining more strongly rooted in Roman jurisprudence, but modified to meet the prevailing political climate. In Scandinavia the effect of Roman law did not become apparent until the 17th century, and the courts grew out of the ''thing (assembly), things''the assemblies of the people. The people decided the cases (usually with largest freeholders dominating). This system later gradually developed into a system with a royal judge nominating a number of the most esteemed men of the parish as his board, fulfilling the function of "the people" of yore. From the Ancient Greece, Hellenic system onwards, the policy rationale for requiring the payment of monetary compensation for wrongs committed has involved the avoidance of feuding between clans and family, families. If compensation could mollify families' feelings, this would help to keep the peace. On the other hand, the institution of oaths also played down the threat of endemic warfare, feudal warfare. Both in archaic Greece and in Middle Ages, medieval Scandinavia, an accused person walked free if he could get a sufficient number of male relatives to swear him not guilty. (Compare the United Nations Security Council, in which the veto power of the permanent members ensures that the organization does not become involved in crises where it could not enforce its decisions.) These means of restraining private feuds did not always work, and sometimes prevented the fulfillment of justice. But in the earliest times the "state" did not always provide an independent policing force. Thus criminal law grew out of what 21st-century lawyers would call torts; and, in real terms, many acts and omissions classified as crimes actually overlap with civil-law concepts. The development of sociology, sociological thought from the 19th century onwards prompted some fresh views on crime and criminality, and fostered the beginnings of criminology as a study of crime in society. Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche noted a link between crime and creativityin ''The Birth of Tragedy'' he asserted: "The best and brightest that man can acquire he must obtain by crime". In the 20th century, Michel Foucault in ''Discipline and Punish'' made a study of criminalization as a coercive method of state control.


Classification


By type

The following classes of offences are used, or have been used, as legal terms: * Offence against the personFor example, by the Visiting Forces Act 1952 * Violent crime, Violent offenceFor example, by section 31(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, and by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 * Sex and the law, Sexual offence * Property crime, Offence against property Researchers and commentators have classified crimes into the following categories, in addition to those above: * Forgery, personation and cheating (law), cheating * Firearms and offensive weapons * Offences against the state/offences against the Crown and Government, or political offences * Drug-related crime, Harmful or dangerous drugs * Offences against religion and public worship * Offences against public justice, or offences against the administration of public justice * Public-order crime, Public order offence * Corporate crime, Commerce, financial markets and insolvency * Offences against public morality, public morals and public policy * Traffic code, Motor vehicle offences * Conspiracy (criminal), Conspiracy, incitement and attempt to commit crime * Inchoate offense, Inchoate offence * Juvenile delinquency * Victimless crime


By penalty

One can categorise crimes depending on the related punishment, with sentence (law), sentencing tariffs prescribed in line with the perceived seriousness of the offence. Thus Fine (penalty), fines and noncustodial sentences may address the crimes seen as least serious, with lengthy imprisonment or (in some jurisdictions)
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ' ...

capital punishment
reserved for the most serious.


Common law

Under the common law of England, crimes were classified as either treason, felony or misdemeanour, with treason sometimes being included with the felonies. This system was based on the perceived seriousness of the offence. It is still used in the United States but the distinction between felony and misdemeanour is abolished in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


By mode of trial

The following classes of offence are based on mode of trial: * Indictable-only offence * Indictable offence * Hybrid offence, a.k.a. either-way offence in England and Wales * Summary offence, a.k.a. summary offence, infraction in the US


By origin

In common law countries, crimes may be categorised into common law offences and
statutory A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) ...
offences. In the US, Australia and Canada (in particular), they are divided into federal crimes and under state crimes.


United States

In the United States since 1930, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI has tabulated Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) annually from crime data submitted by Law enforcement agency, law enforcement agencies across the United States. Officials compile this data at the city, county, and U.S. state, state levels into the UCR. They classify violations of laws based on common law as Part I (index) crimes in UCR data. These are further categorized as violent or property crimes. Part I violent crimes include murder and criminal homicide (voluntary manslaughter), forcible rape, aggravated assault, and robbery; while Part I property crimes include burglary, arson, larceny/theft, and motor-vehicle theft. All other crimes count come under Part II. For convenience, such lists usually include summary offense, infractions although, in the U.S., they may come into the sphere not of the criminal law, but rather of the Civil law (private law), civil law. Compare
tort A tort, in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ' is the most-used legal dict ...

tort
feasance. Booking arrests require detention for a time-frame ranging 1 to 24 hours.


Reports, studies and organizations

There are several national and International organizations offering studies and statistics about global and local crime activity, such as United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United States of America Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) safety report or national reports generated by the law-enforcement authorities of EU state member reported to the Europol.


"Offence" in common law jurisdictions

In England and Wales, as well as in Hong Kong, the term "offence" means the same thing as "#England and Wales, crime", They are further split into: * Summary offences * Indictable offences


Causes and correlates

Many different correlates of crime, causes and correlates of crime have been proposed with varying degree of empirical support. They include socioeconomic, psychological, biological, and behavioral factors. Controversial topics include media violence research and effects of gun politics. Emotional state (both chronic and current) have a tremendous impact on individual thought processes and, as a result, can be linked to criminal activities. The positive psychology concept of Broaden and Build posits that cognitive functioning expands when an individual is in a good-feeling emotional state and contracts as emotional state declines. In positive emotional states an individual is able to consider more possible solutions to problems, but in lower emotional states fewer solutions can be ascertained. The narrowed thought-action repertoires can result in the only paths perceptible to an individual being ones they would never use if they saw an alternative, but if they can't conceive of the alternatives that carry less risk they will choose one that they can see. Criminals who commit even the most horrendous of crimes, such as mass murders, did not see another solution.


International

Crimes defined by treaty as crimes against international law include: * Crime against peace, Crimes against peace * Crime of apartheid, Crimes of apartheid * Forced disappearance * Genocide * Incitement to genocide * Piracy * Sexual slavery * Slavery * Torture * Waging a war of aggression * War crimes From the point of view of state-centric law, extraordinary procedures (international courts or national courts operating with universal jurisdiction) may prosecute such crimes. Note the role of the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands.


Religion

Different religious traditions may promote distinct norms of behaviour, and these in turn may clash or harmonise with the perceived interests of a state. Socially accepted or imposed religious morality has influenced secular jurisdictions on issues that may otherwise concern only an individual's conscience. Activities sometimes criminalized on religious grounds include (for example) alcohol (drug), alcohol consumption (prohibition), abortion and stem cell, stem-cell research. In various historical and present-day societies, institutionalized religions have established systems of earthly justice that punish crimes against the divine will and against specific devotional, organizational and other rules under specific codes, such as Roman Catholic canon law and Sharia, Islamic Shariah Law.


Military jurisdictions and states of emergency

In the military sphere, authorities can prosecute both regular crimes and specific acts (such as mutiny or desertion) under martial law, martial-law codes that either supplant or extend civil codes in times of (for example) war. Many constitutions contain provisions to curtail freedoms and criminalize otherwise tolerated behaviors under a state of emergency in case of war, natural disaster or civil unrest. Undesired activities at such times may include Freedom of assembly, assembly in the streets, violation of curfew, or Gun politics, possession of firearms.


Occupational

Two common types of employment, employee crime exist: embezzlement and wage theft. The complexity and anonymity of computer systems may help criminal employees camouflage their operations. The victims of the most costly confidence trick, scams include banks, brokerage houses, insurance companies, and other large financial institutions.Sara Baase, ''A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing and The Internet''. Third Ed. "Employee Crime" (2008) In the United States, it is estimated that $40 billion to $60 billion are lost annually due to all forms of wage theft. This compares to national annual losses of $340 million due to robbery, $4.1 billion due to burglary, $5.3 billion due to larceny, and $3.8 billion due to auto theft in 2012. In Singapore, as in the United States, wage theft was found to be widespread and severe. In a 2014 survey it was found that as many as one-third of low wage male foreign workers in Singapore, or about 130,000, were affected by wage theft from partial to full denial of pay.


See also

* Crime displacement * Crime science * Federal crime in the United States, Federal Crime * Law and order (politics) * National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington DC * Organized crime (also knows as the criminal underworld) * :Age of criminal responsibility


Notes


References and further reading

* Attenborough, F.L. (ed. and trans.) (1922)
''The Laws of the Earliest English Kings''
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reprint March 2006
The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.
* Blythe, James M. (1992). ''Ideal Government and the Mixed Constitution in the Middle Ages''. Princeton: Princeton University Press. * Cohen, Stanley (1985). ''Visions of Social Control: Crime, Punishment, and Classification''. Polity Press. * Michel Foucault, Foucault, Michel (1975). ''Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison'', New York: Random House. * Garoupa, Nuno & Klerman, Daniel. (2002). "Optimal Law Enforcement with a Rent-Seeking Government". ''American Law and Economics Review'' Vol. 4, No. 1. pp. 116–140. * Hart, H.L.A. (1972). ''Law, Liberty and Morality''. Stanford: Stanford University Press. * Hitchins, Peter. ''A Brief History of Crime'' (2003) 2nd edition was issued as ''he Abolition of Liberty: The Decline of Order and Justice in England'' (2004) * Kalifa, Dominique. ''Vice, Crime, and Poverty: How the Western Imagination Invented the Underworld'' (Columbia University Press, 2019) * Kern, Fritz. (1948). ''Kingship and Law in the Middle Ages''. Reprint edition (1985), Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. * Kramer, Samuel Noah. (1971). ''The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character''. Chicago: University of Chicago. * Maine, Henry Sumner. (1861). ''Ancient Law: Its Connection with the Early History of Society, and Its Relation to Modern Ideas''. Reprint edition (1986). Tucson: University of Arizona Press. * Oppenheim, A. Leo (and Reiner, Erica as editor). (1964). ''Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization''. Revised edition (September 15, 1977). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. * Pennington, Kenneth. (1993). ''The Prince and the Law, 1200–1600: Sovereignty and Rights in the Western Legal Tradition''. Berkeley: University of California Press. * Polinsky, A. Mitchell. (1980). "Private versus Public Enforcement of Fines". ''The Journal of Legal Studies'', Vol. IX, No. 1, (January), pp. 105–127. * Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven. (1997).
On the Disutility and Discounting of Imprisonment and the Theory of Deterrence
', NBER Working Papers 6259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc. * Skaist, Aaron Jacob. (1994). ''The Old Babylonian Loan Contract: Its History and Geography''. Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press.
Théry, Julien. (2011). "Atrocitas/enormitas. Esquisse pour une histoire de la catégorie de 'crime énorme' du Moyen Âge à l'époque moderne", Clio@Themis, Revue électronique d'histoire du droit, n. 4
* Tierney, Brian. (1979). ''Church Law and Constitutional Thought in the Middle Ages''. London: Variorum Reprints. * * Vinogradoff, Paul. (1909). ''Roman Law in Medieval Europe''. Reprint edition (2004). Kessinger Publishing Co.


External links

* {{Authority control Crime, Criminal law Criminology, Morality