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A crime in a broad sense is an act that violates a political or moral law of any one person or social grouping. In the narrow sense, a crime is a violation of criminal law; in many nations, there are criminal standards of bad behaviour. However, not all violations of the law are considered crimes, for example most traffic violations or breaches of contract.


Definition of crime

This section describes usual criminal classifications applicable at present in Western countries. They may differ significantly with those applicable in other cultures; also, they may differ significantly with earlier practices.

Most people who use this word are not "crime" specialists. Generally the word indicates a social concept of the person, where a specific social act is generally considered a deliberate and conscious choice of the choices known to be available to the user of the word. For instance, historically left-handedness, epileptic fits and emotional tantrums have been considered "crimes".

General rules

A crime can be the action of violating or breaking a law. According to Western jurisprudence, there must be a simultaneous concurrence of both actus reus ("guilty action") and mens rea ("guilty mind") for a crime to have been committed; except in crimes of strict liability. In order for prosecution, some laws require proof of causality, relating the defendant's actions to the criminal event in question. In addition, some laws require that attendant circumstances have occurred, in order for a crime to have occurred. Also, in order for a crime to be prosecuted, corpus delicti (or "proof of a crime") must be established.

It may also be a crime to conspire in order to commit other crimes, or helping others to commit crimes (which makes one an accomplice); in some systems the simple association for organizing a crime is punished. The attempt to commit a crime may to be punished, even if the crime is not completed (in California, USA e.g., the punishment can be half of that for the crime itself [1]); for instance, it is generally a crime to attempt to murder someone, even if one has not succeeded in doing so.


The most important thing in every legal trial in every nation, is first impression. The ruling class biases are so dominent in all areas of the supposed fact about everything: ethnicity, sectarianism, sexual-orientation, sexual-appearances, skin-color, occupation and education. These have been and are still consciously and unconsciously used by the ruling classes to put false negatives and false positives onto certain categories of their populations. Every informed person in ther Criminal Trial system will therefore try to use these biases for or against their particular goals. Selection of juries and WYSIWYG assumptions of all witnesses and defendants is the most important factor, before any truth.

The courts and legal process is so irrational that there are many appeal mechanism available to most legal decisions. Historically the death "correction" of the criminal has been so badly incorrect, that some legal autorities will not have it.

In general, in most western systems, the definition of a crime requires the existing intention of committing it (voluntas necandi) in the author, therefore it is usually not officially "punished" when this intention is missing or when the author has not a complete mental sanity or is under a certain age.

Generally laws and law enforcers are much more qualitative, and not quantitiave in their rationality, to the point that they think that metaphors (words) are accurate desciptions of reality. Because of these ethnocentric biases, all civilizations also have Law Reform research organizations to try to quantify these known and obvious biases in arrest, trial, convictions and corrections.

Depending on the level of psychological education of the Law Enforcement groups, some underage defendants (of varying ages around the world) can sometimes be tried "as an adult" because their character is considered adult, whatever the rationale is behind this.

In another example, there generally exists an insanity defense: a assumed deviant person may not officially be penally responsible for his or her actions. A defendent who uses with the insanity defense may be judged guilty like a normal criminal. It is less common to succeed with psychiatric condemnation, and then to be "involuntarily committed" to treatment or corrections. See also Corrections.


Crimes are viewed as offenses against society, and as such are punished by the state. They can be scholastically distinguished, depending on the passive subject of the crime (the victim), or on the offended interest, in crimes against:

Or they can be distinguished depending on the related punishment (then, on the degree of offense that the forbidden behaviour caused), in delicts and violations.

The definition of a crime generally reflects the current attitudes prevalent in a society. For example, possession of drugs was not always a crime, while the Prohibition Era made alcohol illegal.


Crimes can be divided into several (overlapping) categories: computer offenses[2], crimes against persons, crimes against property, crimes against state security, drug offenses, sexual offenses, and weapon offenses. Crimes are also be grouped by severity, some common categorical terms being: felonies, indictable offenses, misdemeanors, and summary offences. For convenience, infractions are also usually incuded in such lists, although they are not subject of the criminal law, but rather of the civil law. An inchoate offense is a planned or attempted crime, which the offender was not able to carry out prior to arrest.

The following are crimes in many jurisdictions:

Aiding and abetting

It may be a crime to aid someone else in committing a crime, or induce him or her to commit one. Ransom


Matters related to criminal behavior in society are studied in the field of sociology in the sub-field of criminology, and a person who studies this is called a criminologist. The mental state and acuity of criminals is assessed by psychologists, especially in cases wherein the insanity defense is being utilized.

The study of crime, in general, across a number of functional diciplines is often known as crime science. This draws on statistics, environmental design, forensics, policing, sociology and other sciences to analyse the crimes, rather than the offenders, and provides ways and means to prevent, detect and solve crimes.


The first civilizations had codes of law, though these codes were not always recorded. The first known written codes were written by the ancient Sumerians, and it was probably their king Ur-Nammu (reigning on Ur in the 21st century BC) the first legislator of which we received a formal system in 32 articles; it has to be recalled that this is not among the eldest laws, since not all the ancient laws are penal rules. In the antiquity, in fact, codes mostly contained both civil and penal rules together. Sumerians however later issued other codes as the one known as "code of Lipit-Istar" (last king of the 3rd dynasty of Ur, Isin - 20th century BC). This code contains some 50 articles and has been reconstructed by the comparison among several sources.

In Babylon the code of Esnunna before, and the code of Hammurabi (one of the richest ones of ancient times) after, were used and reflected society's belief that law was derived from the will of the gods.

Similarly, some codes of conduct of religious origins or reference have been included in penal codes, forbidden behaviours resulting in real crimes in the states ruled by theocracy even in more recent times.

In India, the British had notified 150 tribes such as the Phase Pardhi as criminal in 1871. Though this was repealed in 1952, the criminal stigma still surrounds these groups, and are usually rounded up on suspicion of crime.

Natural law theory

An alternative view of crime is derived from the theory of [natural law]. In this view, crime is the violation of individual rights. Since rights are considered as natural, rather than man-made, what constitutes a crime is also natural, in contrast to laws, which are man-made. Adam Smith illustrates this view, saying a 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 thus distinguishes between criminality and illegality, the former being derived from human nature, the latter being derived from the interests of those in power. The two concepts are sometimes expressed with the phrases "malum in se" and "malum prohibitum". This view leads to a seeming paradox, that an act can be illegal that is no crime, while a criminal act could be perfectly legal.

Many Enlightenment thinkers such as Adam Smith and the American Founding Fathers subscribed to this view to some extent, and it remains influential among so-called classical liberals and libertarians.

A crime malum in se is argued to be inherently criminal; whereas a crime malum prohibitum is argued to be criminal only because the law has decreed it so.

Other uses of the word worldwide

In other cultures (and legal systems) the word crime is used specifically to designate a homicide (the killing of a human being by another). The use of the word crime in any other situations is perceived merely as a means to emphasise the gravity of the specific offence to the law (such as in aggravating circumstances).

See also

See also: criminal law

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