crime

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crime

n. a violation of a law in which there is injury to the public or a member of the public and a term in jail or prison, and/or a fine as possible penalties. There is some sentiment for excluding from the "crime" category crimes without victims, such as consensual acts, or violations in which only the perpetrator is hurt or involved such as personal use of illegal drugs. (See: felony, misdemeanor)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

crime

an offence against the state that is punishable. The act or omission may also be civilly actionable. Prevailing legal thinking takes the positivist view (see POSITIVISM) that any conduct can be declared criminal, so everything from murder to a failure to renew a television licence can be a crime. Most legal systems require that the accused person should exhibit mens rea (‘a guilty mind’) as well as having carried out the actus reus, being the physical requirement. Thus, in theft the accused must have taken the thing (although this is interpreted differently in different systems) and have intended to deprive the true owner of his ownership (although this too can be formulated differently in different systems). Motive is generally irrelevant. A crime is sometimes distinguished from delicts and contraventions, especially in the civil law jurisdictions: a crime is a serious crime, a delict a major offence and a contravention a trivial breach of the law. Crimes are also distinguished from offences, the latter being considered more trivial. The common law world has had a distinction between crime (grave) and misdemeanor (slight). Another common distinction is between mala in se, or ‘bad in themselves’ or they are mala prohibita, ‘bad because prohibited’, as being against public policy.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

CRIME. A crime is an offence against a public law. This word, in its most general signification, comprehends all offences but, in its limited sense, it is confined to felony. 1 Chitty, Gen. Pr. 14.
     2. The term misdemeanor includes every offence inferior to felony, but punishable by indictment or by particular prescribed proceedings.
     3. The term offence, also, may be considered as, having the same meaning, but is usually, by itself, understood to be a crime not indictable but punishable, summarily, or by the forfeiture of, a penalty. Burn's Just. Misdemeanor.
     4. Crimes are defined and punished by statutes and by the common law. Most common law offences are as well known, and as precisely ascertained, as those which are defined by statutes; yet, from the difficulty of exactly defining and describing every act which ought to be punished, the vital and preserving principle has been adopted, that all immoral acts which tend to the prejudice of the community are punishable by courts of justice. 2 Swift's Dig.
     5. Crimes are mala in se, or bad in themselves; and these include. all offences against the moral law; or they are mala prohibita, bad because prohibited, as being against sound policy; which, unless prohibited, would be innocent or indifferent. Crimes may be classed into such as affect:
     6.-1. Religion and public worship: viz. blasphemy, disturbing public worship.
     7.-2. The sovereign power: treason, misprision of treason.
     8.-3. The current coin: as counterfeiting or impairing it.
     9.-4. Public justice: 1. Bribery of judges or jurors, or receiving the bribe. 2. Perjury. 3. Prison breaking. 4. Rescue. 5. Barratry. 6. Maintenance. 7. Champerty. 8. Compounding felonies. 9. Misprision of felonies. 10. Oppression. 11. Extortion. 12. Suppressing evidence. 13. Negligence or misconduct in inferior officers. 14. Obstructing legal process. 15. Embracery.
    10.-5. Public peace. 1. Challenges to fight a duel. 2. Riots, routs and unlawful assemblies. 3. Affrays. 4. Libels.
    11.-6. Public trade. 1. Cheats. 2. Forestalling. S. Regrating. 4. Engrossing. 5. Monopolies.
    12.-7. Chastity. 1. Sodomy. 2. Adultery. 3. Incest. 4. Bigamy. 5. Fornication.
    13.-8. Decency and morality. 1. Public indecency. 2. Drunkenness. 3. Violating the grave.
    14.-9. Public police and economy. 1. Common nuisances. 2. Keeping disorderly houses and bawdy houses. 3. Idleness, vagrancy, and beggary.
    15.-10. Public. policy. 1. Gambling. 2. Illegal lotteries.
    16.-11. Individuals. 1. Homicide, which is justifiable, excusable or felonious. 2. Mayhem. 3. Rape. 4. Poisoning, with intent to murder. 5. Administering drugs to a woman quick with child to cause, miscarriage. 6. Concealing death of bastard child. 7. Assault and battery, which is either simple or with intent to commit some other crime. 8. kidnapping. 9. False imprisonment. 10. Abduction.
    17.-12. Private property. 1. Burglary. 2. Arson. 3. Robbery. 4., Forgery. Counterfeiting. 6. Larceny. 7. Receiving stolen goods, knowing them to have been stolen, or theft-bote. 8. Malicious mischief.
    18.-13. The public, individuals, or their property, according to the intent of the criminal. 1. Conspiracy.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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