Culprit(redirected from culprits)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia.
An individual who has been formally charged with a criminal offense but who has not yet been tried and convicted.
Culprit is a colloquial rather than a legal term and is commonly applied to someone who is guilty of a minor degree of moral reprehensibility. According to Sir William Blackstone, the term is most likely a derivative of the archaic mode of Arraignment during which upon a prisoner's plea of not guilty the cleric would say culpabilis prit, meaning "he is guilty and the crown is ready." The more common derivation is from culpa, meaning "fault or blame."
CULPRIT, crim. law. When a prisoner is arraigned, and he pleads not guilty, in the English practice, the clerk, who arraigns him on behalf of the crown, replies that the prisoner is guilty, and that he is ready to prove the accusation; this is done by two monosyllables, cul prit. Vide Abbreviations; 4 Bl. Com. 339; 1 Chit. Cr. Law, 416.