Crime

Crime

Overview

Crime is the breach of rules or law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

s for which some governing authority
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 (via mechanisms such as legal systems) can ultimately prescribe a conviction
Conviction
In law, a conviction is the verdict that results when a court of law finds a defendant guilty of a crime.The opposite of a conviction is an acquittal . In Scotland and in the Netherlands, there can also be a verdict of "not proven", which counts as an acquittal...

. Individual human societies may each define crime and crimes differently, in different localities (state, local, international), at different time stages of the so-called "crime" (planning, disclosure, supposedly intended, supposedly prepared, incomplete, complete or future proclaimed after the "crime").

While every crime violates the law, not every violation of the law counts as a crime; for example: breaches of contract
Breach of contract
Breach of contract is a legal cause of action in which a binding agreement or bargained-for exchange is not honored by one or more of the parties to the contract by non-performance or interference with the other party's performance....

 and of other civil law
Private law
Private law is that part of a civil law legal system which is part of the jus commune that involves relationships between individuals, such as the law of contracts or torts, as it is called in the common law, and the law of obligations as it is called in civilian legal systems...

 may rank as "offences" or as "infractions".
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Quotations

Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State's failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community.

H.G. Wells, A Modern Utopia (1905), Chapter 5; reprinted in The Works of H.G. Wells. Vol. 9 (1925).
Encyclopedia

Crime is the breach of rules or law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

s for which some governing authority
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 (via mechanisms such as legal systems) can ultimately prescribe a conviction
Conviction
In law, a conviction is the verdict that results when a court of law finds a defendant guilty of a crime.The opposite of a conviction is an acquittal . In Scotland and in the Netherlands, there can also be a verdict of "not proven", which counts as an acquittal...

. Individual human societies may each define crime and crimes differently, in different localities (state, local, international), at different time stages of the so-called "crime" (planning, disclosure, supposedly intended, supposedly prepared, incomplete, complete or future proclaimed after the "crime").

While every crime violates the law, not every violation of the law counts as a crime; for example: breaches of contract
Breach of contract
Breach of contract is a legal cause of action in which a binding agreement or bargained-for exchange is not honored by one or more of the parties to the contract by non-performance or interference with the other party's performance....

 and of other civil law
Private law
Private law is that part of a civil law legal system which is part of the jus commune that involves relationships between individuals, such as the law of contracts or torts, as it is called in the common law, and the law of obligations as it is called in civilian legal systems...

 may rank as "offences" or as "infractions". Modern societies generally regard crimes as offences against the public or the state, as distinguished from tort
Tort
A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a wrong that involves a breach of a civil duty owed to someone else. It is differentiated from a crime, which involves a breach of a duty owed to society in general...

s
(wrongs against private parties that can give rise to a civil cause of action).

When informal relationships and sanctions prove insufficient to establish and maintain a desired social order
Social order
Social order is a concept used in sociology, history and other social sciences. It refers to a set of linked social structures, social institutions and social practices which conserve, maintain and enforce "normal" ways of relating and behaving....

, a government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 or a state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 may impose more formalized or stricter systems of social control
Social control
Social control refers generally to societal and political mechanisms or processes that regulate individual and group behavior, leading to conformity and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group. Many mechanisms of social control are cross-cultural, if only in the control...

. With institutional and legal machinery at their disposal, agents of the State
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 can compel populations 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
Crime prevention
Crime prevention is the attempt to reduce victimization and to deter crime and criminals. It is applied specifically to efforts made by governments to reduce crime, enforce the law, and maintain criminal justice.-Studies:...

. In addition, authorities provide remedies
Legal remedy
A legal remedy is the means with which a court of law, usually in the exercise of civil law jurisdiction, enforces a right, imposes a penalty, or makes some other court order to impose its will....

 and sanctions
Sanctions (law)
Sanctions are penalties or other means of enforcement used to provide incentives for obedience with the law, or with rules and regulations. Criminal sanctions can take the form of serious punishment, such as corporal or capital punishment, incarceration, or severe fines...

, and collectively these constitute a criminal justice
Criminal justice
Criminal Justice is the system of practices and institutions of governments directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime, or sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts...

 system. Legal sanctions vary widely in their severity, they may include (for example) incarceration of temporary character aimed at reforming the convict. Some jurisdictions have penal codes written to inflict permanent harsh punishments: legal mutilation
Mutilation
Mutilation or maiming is an act of physical injury that degrades the appearance or function of any living body, usually without causing death.- Usage :...

, capital punishment
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

 or life without parole.

Usually a natural person
Natural person
Variously, in jurisprudence, a natural person is a human being, as opposed to an artificial, legal or juristic person, i.e., an organization that the law treats for some purposes as if it were a person distinct from its members or owner...

 perpetrates a crime, but legal persons may also commit crimes. Conversely, at least under U.S. Law, nonpersons such as animals cannot commit crimes.

The sociologist Richard Quinney
Richard Quinney
Richard Quinney is an American sociologist, writer, and photographer known for his philosophical and critical approach to crime and social justice. After earning his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin, he taught at several universities on the East Coast and in the Midwest...

 has written about the relationship between society and crime. When Quinney states "crime is a social phenomenon" he envisages both how individuals conceive crime and how populations perceive it, based on societal norms.

Etymology


The word crime is derived from the latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 root cernō, meaning "I decide, I give judgment". Originally the Latin word crīmen meant "charge
Criminal charge
A criminal charge is a formal accusation made by a governmental authority asserting that somebody has committed a crime. A charging document, which contains one or more criminal charges or counts, can take several forms, including:* complaint...

" or "cry of distress." The Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 word krima (κρίμα), from which the Latin cognate 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 language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 crime meant "sinfulness", according to etymonline.com. The glossing was probably brought to England as Old French crimne (12th century form of Modern French crime), from Latin crimen (in the genitive case: criminis). In Latin, crimen could have signified any one of the following: "charge
Charge
Charge or charged may refer to:* Charge , illegal contact by pushing or moving into another player's torso* Charge , a six-note trumpet or bugle piece denoting the call to rush forward...

, indictment
Indictment
An indictment , in the common-law legal system, is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that maintain the concept of felonies, the serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that lack the concept of felonies often use that of an indictable offence—an...

, accusation
Accusation
*Accusation can mean:*The Accusation, a 1951 Italian film*Criminal accusation*False accusations*For other meanings, see wikt:accusation...

; crime, fault
Fault
Fault may refer to:*Fault , planar rock fractures which show evidence of relative movement*Fault , in dog breeding, is an undesirable aspect of structure or appearance that indicates the dog should not be bred...

, offense
Offense
Offense or Offence may refer to:* Offence , a violation of the penal law* Offense , the action of engaging an opposing team with the objective of scoring...

".

The word may derive from the Latin cernere - "to decide, to sift" (see crisis
Crisis
A crisis is any event that is, or expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community or whole society...

, mapped on Kairos
Kairos
Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment . The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special...

 and Kronos
Kronos
Kronos can refer to:*Cronus, a Titan, the father of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter, Hera, and Chiron.In business*Kronos Foods, the world's largest manufacturer of gyrosIn computing...

). But Ernest Klein
Ernest Klein
Ernest Klein, OC was a Romanian-born Canadian linguist, author, and rabbi.Klein was born in Szatmárnémeti , in Partium — a region of Austria-Hungary at the time, it is now in Romania; he received his PhD at the University of Vienna in 1925...

 (citing Karl Brugmann
Karl Brugmann
Karl Brugmann was a German linguist. He is a towering figure in Indo-European linguistics.-Biography:He was educated at Halle and Leipzig. He was instructor in the gymnasium at Wiesbaden and at Leipzig, and in 1872-77 was assistant at the Russian Institute of Classical Philology at the latter place...

) rejects this and suggests *cri-men, which originally would have meant "cry of distress". Thomas G. Tucker suggests a root in "cry
Cry
Cry usually refers to crying, the act of shedding tears.Cry may also refer to:* Cry, Yonne, a commune in France* CRY , worldwide non-profit organization-Songs:* "Cry" , 1951...

" words and refers to English plaint, plaintiff
Plaintiff
A plaintiff , also known as a claimant or complainant, is the term used in some jurisdictions for the party who initiates a lawsuit before a court...

, and so on. The meaning "offense punishable by law" dates from the late 14th century. The Latin word is gloss
Gloss
A gloss is a brief notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text, or in the reader's language if that is different....

ed in Old English by facen, also "deceit, fraud, treachery, [cf. fake]. Crime wave first attested in 1893 in American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

.

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.

History

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
Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992
The Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 is a UK Act of Parliament which regulates British labour law. The Act applies in full in England and Wales and in Scotland, and partially in Northern Ireland....

, a crime means an offence punishable on indictment
Indictment
An indictment , in the common-law legal system, is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that maintain the concept of felonies, the serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that lack the concept of felonies often use that of an indictable offence—an...

, or an offence punishable on summary conviction, and for the commission of which the offender is liable under the statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

 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
Norm (sociology)
Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

 definition
Definition
A definition is a passage that explains the meaning of a term , or a type of thing. The term to be defined is the definiendum. A term may have many different senses or meanings...

 views crime as deviant behavior
Deviant Behavior
Deviant Behavior is an interdisciplinary journal which focuses on social deviance, including criminal, sexual, and narcotic behaviors.The journal is published by Taylor and Francis, Inc., and was ranked 41st out of 46 psychology journals and 46th out of 90 sociology journals in 2004 by the...

 that violates prevailing norms
Norm (sociology)
Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

  cultural
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 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
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

, political
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, psychological
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, and economic
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 conditions may affect changing definitions of crime and the form of the legal, law-enforcement
Police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

, and penal responses made by society.

These structural
Structuralism
Structuralism originated in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the subsequent Prague and Moscow schools of linguistics. Just as structural linguistics was facing serious challenges from the likes of Noam Chomsky and thus fading in importance in linguistics, structuralism...

 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
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

 crime rates, influence the allocation of resources for the enforcement of laws, and (re-)influence the general public opinion
Public opinion
Public opinion is the aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs held by the adult population. Public opinion can also be defined as the complex collection of opinions of many different people and the sum of all their views....

.

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
Crime statistics attempt to provide statistical measures of the crime in societies. Given that crime is usually secretive by nature, measurements of it are likely to be inaccurate....

, 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
Social engineering (political science)
Social engineering is a discipline in political science that refers to efforts to influence popular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments or private groups. In the political arena, the counterpart of social engineering is political engineering.For various reasons,...

 to enforce or encourage any particular social norm. Behaviour can be controlled and influenced in many ways without having to resort to the criminal justice system.

Indeed, in those cases where no clear consensus exists on a given norm, the drafting of criminal law
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

 by the group in power
Power (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

 to prohibit the behaviour of another group may seem to some observers an improper limitation of the second group's freedom, and the ordinary members of society have less respect for the law or laws in general — whether the authorities actually enforce the disputed law or not.

Other


Legislature
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

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
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

 laws, for example, and the prohibition or encouragement of duelling in history. Other crimes, called mala in se, count as outlawed in almost all societies, (murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

, theft
Theft
In common usage, theft is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent. The word is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting and fraud...

 and rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

, for example).

English criminal law
English criminal law
English criminal law refers to the body of law in the jurisdiction of England and Wales which deals with crimes and their consequences. Criminal acts are considered offences against the whole of a community...

 and the related criminal law of Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 countries can define offences that the courts alone have developed over the years, without any actual legislation: common law offences
Common law offences
Common law offences are crimes under English criminal law and the related criminal law of Commonwealth of Nations countries. These are offences of the common law which are developed entirely by the courts over the years, and for which there is no actual legislation.The various common law offences...

. The courts used the concept of malum in se
Malum in se
Malum 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...

to develop various common law offences.

Criminalization


One can view criminalization as a procedure deployed by society as a pre-emptive, harm-reduction device, using the threat of punishment as a deterrent
Deterrence (legal)
Deterrence is the use of punishment as a threat to deter people from committing a crime. Deterrence is often contrasted with retributivism, which holds that punishment is a necessary consequence of a crime and should be calculated based on the gravity of the wrong done.- Categories :Deterrence can...

 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
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

, for example, to minimize harm to others).

Criminalization may provide future harm-reduction at least to the outside population, assuming those shamed or incarcerated or otherwise restrained for committing crimes start out more prone to criminal behaviour. Likewise, one might assume that criminalize acts that in themselves do not harm other people ("victimless crimes") may prevent subsequent harmful acts (assuming that people "prone" to commit these acts may tend to commit harmful actions in general). Some see the criminalization of "victimless crimes" as a pretext for imposing personal, religious or moral convictions on otherwise productive citizens or taxpayers.

Some commentators may see criminalization as a way to make potential criminals pay
Payment
A payment is the transfer of wealth from one party to another. A payment is usually made in exchange for the provision of goods, services or both, or to fulfill a legal obligation....

 or suffer for their prospective crimes. In this case, criminalization becomes a way to set the price that one must pay to society for certain actions considered detrimental to society as a whole. An extreme view might see criminalization as State-sanctioned revenge
Revenge
Revenge is a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance, be it real or perceived. It is also called payback, retribution, retaliation or vengeance; it may be characterized, justly or unjustly, as a form of justice.-Function in society:Some societies believe that the...

.

States control the process of criminalization because:
  • Even if victim
    Victimology
    Victimology is the scientific study of victimization, including the relationships between victims and offenders, the interactions between victims and the criminal justice system — that is, the police and courts, and corrections officials — and the connections between victims and other social groups...

    s 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
    Fear
    Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger...

     of retaliation
    Retaliate
    Retaliate is the debut album of Maryland death metal band Misery Index.Track 5 was previously recorded and released on a split with Structure of Lies.-Track listing:# "Retaliate" – 3:28# "The Lies That Bind" – 2:46# "The Great Depression" – 2:40...

     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
    Trial (law)
    In law, a trial is when parties to a dispute come together to present information in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to adjudicate claims or disputes. One form of tribunal is a court...

    .
  • 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 & 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
    Social welfare function
    In economics, a social welfare function is a real-valued function that ranks conceivable social states from lowest to highest. Inputs of the function include any variables considered to affect the economic welfare of a society...

    -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


See Labeling theory#The "criminal"

The label
Labeling theory
Labeling theory is closely related to interactionist and social construction theories. Labeling theory was developed by sociologists during the 1960's. Howard Saul Becker's book entitled Outsiders was extremely influential in the development of this theory and its rise to popularity...

 of "crime" and the accompanying social stigma
Social stigma
Social stigma is the severe disapproval of or discontent with a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society.Almost all stigma is based on a person differing from social or cultural norms...

 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
Hegemony
Hegemony is an indirect form of imperial dominance in which the hegemon rules sub-ordinate states by the implied means of power rather than direct military force. In Ancient Greece , hegemony denoted the politico–military dominance of a city-state over other city-states...

 of a dominant population, or to reflect a consensus of condemnation for the identified behavior and to justify any punishments prescribed by the State (in the event that standard processing
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

 tries
Trial (law)
In law, a trial is when parties to a dispute come together to present information in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to adjudicate claims or disputes. One form of tribunal is a court...

 and convicts an accused person of a crime).

Natural-law theory


Justifying the State's use of force
Coercion
Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. In law, coercion is codified as the duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way...

 to coerce compliance with its laws has proven a consistent theoretical problem. One of the earliest justifications involved the theory of natural law
Natural law
Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

. This posits that the nature of the world or of human beings underlies the standards of morality
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

 or constructs them. Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 wrote in the 13th century: "the rule and measure of human acts is the reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

, which is the first principle of human acts" (Aquinas, ST I-II, Q.90, A.I). He regarded people as by nature rational
Rationality
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

 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
William Blackstone
Sir William Blackstone KC SL was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke...

 (1979: 41) 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 (1790–1859), an early positivist
Legal positivism
Legal positivism is a school of thought of philosophy of law and jurisprudence, largely developed by nineteenth-century legal thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham and John Austin. However, the most prominent figure in the history of legal positivism is H.L.A...

, applied utilitarianism
Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...

 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, Hart (1961) saw the law as an aspect of sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

, 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
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

 and consistency
Consistency
Consistency can refer to:* Consistency , the psychological need to be consistent with prior acts and statements* "Consistency", an 1887 speech by Mark Twain...

, and that the state's agents used state power with responsibility
Social responsibility
Social responsibility is an ethical ideology or theory that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act to benefit society at large. Social responsibility is a duty every individual or organization has to perform so as to maintain a balance between the economy and the...

. Ronald Dworkin
Ronald Dworkin
Ronald Myles Dworkin, QC, FBA is an American philosopher and scholar of constitutional law. He is Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York University and Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London, and has taught previously at Yale Law School and the...

 (2005) 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
Deference
Deference is the condition of submitting to the espoused, legitimate influence of one's superior or superiors. Deference implies a yielding or submitting to the judgment of a recognized superior out of respect or reverence...

 (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.

Indeed, despite everything, the majority of natural-law theorists 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
Moral relativism
Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions. Each of them is concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures:...

 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 rights
Individual rights
Group rights are rights held by a group rather than by its members separately, or rights held only by individuals within the specified group; in contrast, individual rights are rights held by individual people regardless of their group membership or lack thereof...

.

Since society considers so many rights as natural (hence the term "right
Right
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

") rather than man-made, what constitutes a crime also counts as natural, in contrast to laws (seen as man-made). Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

 illustrates this view, saying that a smuggler
Smuggling
Smuggling is the clandestine transportation of goods or persons, such as out of a building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.There are various motivations to smuggle...

 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 (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

). Lawyers sometimes express the two concepts with the phrases malum in se
Malum in se
Malum 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...

and malum prohibitum
Malum prohibitum
Malum prohibitum is a Latin phrase used in law to refer to conduct that constitutes an unlawful act only by virtue of statute, as opposed to conduct evil in and of itself, or malum in se. Conduct that was so clearly violative of society's standards for allowable conduct that it was illegal under...

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.

This view leads to a seeming paradox
Paradox
Similar to Circular reasoning, A paradox is a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition...

: one can perform an illegal act without committing a 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
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

.

History


Some religious communities regard sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

 as a crime; some may even highlight the crime of sin very early in legendary or mythological accounts of origins — note the tale of Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

 and the theory of original sin
Original sin
Original sin is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity's state of sin resulting from the Fall of Man. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred...

. What one group considers a crime may cause or ignite war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

 or conflict. However, the earliest known civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

s had codes of law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, containing both civil
Civil law (common law)
Civil law, as opposed to criminal law, is the branch of law dealing with disputes between individuals or organizations, in which compensation may be awarded to the victim...

 and penal rules mixed together, though not always in recorded form.

The Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ians produced the earliest surviving written codes. Urukagina
Urukagina
Urukagina , alternately rendered as Uruinimgina or Irikagina, was a ruler of the city-state Lagash in Mesopotamia...

 (reigned c .2380 BC–2360 BC, short chronology) had an early code that has not survived; a later king, Ur-Nammu
Ur-Nammu
Ur-Nammu founded the Sumerian 3rd dynasty of Ur, in southern Mesopotamia, following several centuries of Akkadian and Gutian rule...

, left the earliest extant written law-system, the Code of Ur-Nammu
Code of Ur-Nammu
The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. It was written in the Sumerian language circa 2100 BC-2050 BC...

 (c .2100-2050 BC), 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
Lipit-Ishtar
Lipit-Ishtar , was the fifth ruler of the first dynasty of Isin, and ruled from around 1934 BCE to 1924 BCE. Some documents and royal inscriptions from his time have survived, but he is mostly known because Sumerian language hymns written in his honor, as well as a legal code written in his name ,...

". 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
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, including the code of Hammurabi
Code of Hammurabi
The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC . It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay...

 (c. 1790 BC), reflected Mesopotamian society's belief that law derived from the will of the gods (see Babylonian law
Babylonian law
Archaeological material for the study of Babylonian law is singularly extensive. So-called "contracts" exist in the thousands, including a great variety of deeds, conveyances, bonds, receipts, accounts, and most important of all, actual legal decisions given by the judges in the law courts...

).
Many states at this time functioned as theocracies
Theocracy
Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

, with codes of conduct largely religious in origin or reference.

Sir Henry Maine (1861) 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
In common usage, theft is the illegal taking of another person's property without that person's permission or consent. The word is also used as an informal shorthand term for some crimes against property, such as burglary, embezzlement, larceny, looting, robbery, shoplifting and fraud...

, assault
Assault
In law, assault is a crime causing a victim to fear violence. The term is often confused with battery, which involves physical contact. The specific meaning of assault varies between countries, but can refer to an act that causes another to apprehend immediate and personal violence, or in the more...

, rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

, 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.

The Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 systematized law and applied their system across the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. Again, the initial rules of Roman Law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

 regarded assaults as a matter of private compensation. The most significant Roman Law concept involved dominion. The pater familias
Pater familias
The pater familias, also written as paterfamilias was the head of a Roman family. The term is Latin for "father of the family" or the "owner of the family estate". The form is irregular and archaic in Latin, preserving the old genitive ending in -as...

owned all the family and its property (including slaves); the pater enforced matters involving interference with any property. The Commentaries of Gaius
Gaius (jurist)
Gaius was a celebrated Roman jurist. Scholars know very little of his personal life. It is impossible to discover even his full name, Gaius or Caius being merely his personal name...

 (written between 130 and 180 AD) on the Twelve Tables
Twelve Tables
The Law of the Twelve Tables was the ancient legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law. The Law of the Twelve Tables formed the centrepiece of the constitution of the Roman Republic and the core of the mos maiorum...

 treated furtum (in modern parlance: "theft") as a tort
Tort
A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a wrong that involves a breach of a civil duty owed to someone else. It is differentiated from a crime, which involves a breach of a duty owed to society in general...

.

Similarly, assault and violent robbery
Robbery
Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear....

 involved trespass
Trespass
Trespass is an area of tort law broadly divided into three groups: trespass to the person, trespass to chattels and trespass to land.Trespass to the person, historically involved six separate trespasses: threats, assault, battery, wounding, mayhem, and maiming...

 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
Damages
In law, damages is an award, typically of money, to be paid to a person as compensation for loss or injury; grammatically, it is a singular noun, not plural.- Compensatory damages :...

") could discharge. Similarly, the consolidated 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 Britannic provinces
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

 around 400 AD, the Germanic mercenaries who had largely become instrumental in enforcing Roman rule in Britannia acquired 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 invasion
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

, 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
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

, 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
King
- Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...

 wanted to raise money by selling a new form of writ
Writ
In common law, a writ is a formal written order issued by a body with administrative or judicial jurisdiction; in modern usage, this body is generally a court...

). The development of the idea that the "State" dispenses justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

 in a court only emerges in parallel with or after the emergence of the concept of sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

.

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
Jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

, but modified to meet the prevailing political climate
Political climate
The political climate is the aggregate, current mood and opinions of a populace about political issues that also currently affect that population. It is generally used to describe a state of change in mood and opinions rather than a state of equilibrium...

.

In Scandinavia the effect of Roman law did not become apparent until the 17th century, and the courts grew out of the thing
Thing (assembly)
A thing was the governing assembly in Germanic and introduced into some Celtic societies, made up of the free people of the community and presided by lawspeakers, meeting in a place called a thingstead...

s
— 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 Hellenic system onwards, the policy rationale for requiring the payment of monetary compensation for wrongs committed has involved the avoidance of feud
Feud
A feud , referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud, vendetta, faida, or private war, is a long-running argument or fight between parties—often groups of people, especially families or clans. Feuds begin because one party perceives itself to have been attacked, insulted or wronged by another...

ing between clan
Clan
A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Even if lineage details are unknown, clan members may be organized around a founding member or apical ancestor. The kinship-based bonds may be symbolical, whereby the clan shares a "stipulated" common ancestor that is a...

s and families
Family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

.
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 feudal warfare
Endemic warfare
Endemic warfare is the state of continual, low-threshold warfare in a tribal warrior society. Endemic warfare is often highly ritualized and plays an important function in assisting the formation of a social structure among the tribes' men by proving themselves in battle.Ritual fighting permits...

. Both in archaic Greece and in medieval
Middle age
Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Various attempts have been made to define this age, which is around the third quarter of the average life span of human beings....

 Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

, an accused person walked free if he could get a sufficient number of male relatives to swear him unguilty. (Compare the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

, in which the veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

 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 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 sociological
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 thought from the 19th century onwards prompted some fresh views on crime and criminality, and fostered the beginnings of criminology
Criminology
Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior in both the individual and in society...

 as a study of crime in society. Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

 noted a link between crime and creativity
Creativity
Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs...

  in 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
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

 in Discipline and Punish
Discipline and Punish
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison is a book by philosopher Michel Foucault. Originally published in 1975 in France under the title Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison, it was translated into English in 1977. It is an interrogation of the social and theoretical mechanisms behind...

made a study of criminalization
Criminalization
Criminalization or criminalisation, in criminology, is "the process by which behaviors and individuals are transformed into crime and criminals". Previously legal acts may be transformed into crimes by legislation or judicial decision...

 as a coercive method of state control.

Categorisation by type


The following classes of offences are used, or have been used, as legal terms of art:
  • Offence against the person
    Offence against the person
    In criminal law, an offence against the person usually refers to a crime which is committed by direct physical harm or force being applied to another person.They are usually analysed by division into the following categories:*Fatal offences*Sexual offences...

  • Violent offence
  • Sexual offence
  • Offence against property


Researchers and commentators have classified crimes into the following categories, in addition to those above:
  • Forgery, personation and cheating
  • Firearms and offensive weapons
  • Offences against the State/Offences against the Crown and Government/Political offences
  • Harmful or dangerous drugs
  • Offences against religion
    Religion
    Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

     and public worship
  • Offences against public justice/Offences against the administration of public justice
  • Public order offence
  • Commerce
    Commerce
    While business refers to the value-creating activities of an organization for profit, commerce means the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural, and technological systems that are in operation in any...

    , financial market
    Financial market
    In economics, a financial market is a mechanism that allows people and entities to buy and sell financial securities , commodities , and other fungible items of value at low transaction costs and at prices that reflect supply and demand.Both general markets and...

    s and insolvency
    Insolvency
    Insolvency means the inability to pay one's debts as they fall due. Usually used to refer to a business, insolvency refers to the inability of a company to pay off its debts.Business insolvency is defined in two different ways:...

  • Offences against public morals and public policy
    Public policy
    Public policy as government action is generally the principled guide to action taken by the administrative or executive branches of the state with regard to a class of issues in a manner consistent with law and institutional customs. In general, the foundation is the pertinent national and...

  • Motor vehicle offences
  • Conspiracy, incitement and attempt to commit crime
  • Inchoate offence
  • Juvenile Delinquency
    Juvenile delinquency
    Juvenile delinquency is participation in illegal behavior by minors who fall under a statutory age limit. Most legal systems prescribe specific procedures for dealing with juveniles, such as juvenile detention centers. There are a multitude of different theories on the causes of crime, most if not...


Categorisation by penalty


One can categorise crimes depending on the related punishment, with sentencing
Sentence (law)
In law, a sentence forms the final explicit act of a judge-ruled process, and also the symbolic principal act connected to his function. The sentence can generally involve a decree of imprisonment, a fine and/or other punishments against a defendant convicted of a crime...

 tariff
Tariff
A tariff may be either tax on imports or exports , or a list or schedule of prices for such things as rail service, bus routes, and electrical usage ....

s prescribed in line with the perceived seriousness of the offence. Thus fines and noncustodial sentences may address the crimes seen as least serious, with lengthy imprisonment or (in some jurisdictions) capital punishment
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

 reserved for the most serious.

Common law


Under the common law of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, crimes were classified as either treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

, felony
Felony
A felony is a serious crime in the common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors...

 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
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 but the distinction between felony and misdemeanour is abolished in England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

 and Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

.

Classification by mode of trial


The following classes of offence are based on mode of trial:
  • Indictable-only offence
  • Indictable offence
    Indictable offence
    In many common law jurisdictions , an indictable offence is an offence which can only be tried on an indictment after a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is a prima facie case to answer or by a grand jury...

  • Hybrid offence
    Hybrid offence
    A hybrid offence, dual offence, Crown option offence, dual procedure offence, or wobbler are the special class offences in the common law jurisdictions where the case may be prosecuted either summarily or as indictment...

    , aka either-way offence in England and Wales
  • Summary offence
    Summary offence
    A summary offence is a criminal act in some common law jurisdictions that can be proceeded with summarily, without the right to a jury trial and/or indictment .- United States :...

    , aka infraction in the US

Classification by origin


In common law countries, crimes may be categorised into common law offences
Common law offences
Common law offences are crimes under English criminal law and the related criminal law of Commonwealth of Nations countries. These are offences of the common law which are developed entirely by the courts over the years, and for which there is no actual legislation.The various common law offences...

 and statutory offences. In the US, Australia and Canada (in particular), they are divided into federal crime
Federal crime
In the United States, a federal crime or federal offense is a crime that is made illegal by U.S. federal legislation. In the United States, criminal law and prosecution happen at both the federal and the state levels; thus a “federal crime” is one that is prosecuted under federal criminal law, and...

s and under state crimes.

U.S. classification


In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 since 1930, the FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 has tabulated Uniform Crime Reports
Uniform Crime Reports
The Uniform Crime Reports are published by the United States Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Program...

 (UCR) annually from crime data submitted by law enforcement
Law enforcement agency
In North American English, a law enforcement agency is a government agency responsible for the enforcement of the laws.Outside North America, such organizations are called police services. In North America, some of these services are called police while others have other names In North American...

 agencies across the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.
Officials compile this data at the city, county, and state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 levels into the Uniform crime reports (UCR). They classify violations of laws based on common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 as Part I (index) crimes in UCR data. These are further categorised 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 infractions although, in the U.S., they may come into the sphere not of the criminal law, but rather of the civil law. Compare tort
Tort
A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a wrong that involves a breach of a civil duty owed to someone else. It is differentiated from a crime, which involves a breach of a duty owed to society in general...

feasance.

Booking-arrest
Arrest
An arrest is the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty usually in relation to the purported investigation and prevention of crime and presenting into the criminal justice system or harm to oneself or others...

s require detention for a time-frame ranging 1 to 24 hours.

Causes and correlates of crime



Many different causes and correlates of crime
Causes and correlates of crime
Many different causes and correlates of crime have been proposed with varying degree of empirical support.-Research and sources:The causes of crime is one of the major research areas in criminology....

 have been proposed with varying degree of empirical support. They include socioeconomic, psychological, biological, and behavioral factors. Controversial topics include media violence research
Media violence research
Research into the media and violence examines whether links between consuming media violence and subsequent aggressive and violent behavior exists...

 and effects of gun politics
Gun politics
Gun politics addresses safety issues and ideologies related to firearms through criminal and noncriminal use. Gun politics deals with rules, regulations, and restrictions on the use, ownership, and distribution of firearms.-National sovereignty:...

.

Crimes in international law



Crimes defined by treaty
Treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

 as crimes against international law include:
  • crimes against peace
    Crime against peace
    A crime against peace, in international law, refers to "planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing"...

  • crimes of apartheid
    Crime of apartheid
    The crime of apartheid is defined by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other...

  • genocide
    Genocide
    Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

  • piracy
    Piracy
    Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

  • slavery
    Slavery
    Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

  • sexual slavery
    Sexual slavery
    Sexual slavery is when unwilling people are coerced into slavery for sexual exploitation. The incidence of sexual slavery by country has been studied and tabulated by UNESCO, with the cooperation of various international agencies...

  • forced disappearance
    Forced disappearance
    In international human rights law, a forced disappearance occurs when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the...

  • waging a war of aggression
    War of aggression
    A war of aggression, sometimes also war of conquest, is a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense usually for territorial gain and subjugation. The phrase is distinctly modern and diametrically opposed to the prior legal international standard of "might makes right", under...

  • war crime
    War crime
    War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

    s


From the point of view of State-centric law, extraordinary procedures (usually international court
International court
International courts are formed by treaties between nations, or under the authority of an international organization such as the United Nations — this includes ad hoc tribunals and permanent institutions, but excludes any courts arising purely under national authority.Early examples of...

s) may prosecute such crimes. Note the role of the International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression .It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the...

 at The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

 in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

.

Popular opinion in the Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 World and Former Soviet Union often associates international law with the concept of opposing terrorism — seen as a crime as distinct from warfare.

Religion and crime


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
Alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

-consumption (prohibition
Prohibition
Prohibition of alcohol, often referred to simply as prohibition, is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the...

), abortion
Abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

 and stem-cell
Stem cell
This article is about the cell type. For the medical therapy, see Stem Cell TreatmentsStem cells are biological cells found in all multicellular organisms, that can divide and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can self-renew to produce more stem cells...

 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
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

.

Military jurisdictions and states of emergency


In the military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 sphere, authorities can prosecute both regular crimes and specific acts (such as mutiny
Mutiny
Mutiny is a conspiracy among members of a group of similarly situated individuals to openly oppose, change or overthrow an authority to which they are subject...

 or desertion
Desertion
In military terminology, desertion is the abandonment of a "duty" or post without permission and is done with the intention of not returning...

) under martial-law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the 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
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 in the event of war, natural disaster or civil unrest. Undesired activities at such times may include assembly
Freedom of assembly
Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests...

 in the streets, violation of curfew
Curfew
A curfew is an order specifying a time after which certain regulations apply. Examples:# An order by a government for certain persons to return home daily before a certain time...

, or possession of firearms.

Employee crime



Two common types of employee crime exist: embezzlement
Embezzlement
Embezzlement is the act of dishonestly appropriating or secreting assets by one or more individuals to whom such assets have been entrusted....

 and sabotage
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

.

The complexity and anonymity of computer systems may help criminal employees camouflage their operations. The victims of the most costly scams include banks, brokerage houses, insurance companies, and other large financial institutions.

Most people guilty of embezzlement do not have criminal histories. Embezzlers tend to have a gripe against their employer, have financial problems, or simply an inability to resist the temptation of a loophole they have found. Screening and background checks on perspective employees can help in prevention; however, many laws make some types of screening difficult or even illegal. Fired or disgruntled employees sometimes sabotage their company's computer system as a form of "pay back
Revenge
Revenge is a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance, be it real or perceived. It is also called payback, retribution, retaliation or vengeance; it may be characterized, justly or unjustly, as a form of justice.-Function in society:Some societies believe that the...

". This sabotage may take the form of a logic bomb
Logic bomb
A logic bomb is a piece of code intentionally inserted into a software system that will set off a malicious function when specified conditions are met...

, a computer virus
Computer virus
A computer virus is a computer program that can replicate itself and spread from one computer to another. The term "virus" is also commonly but erroneously used to refer to other types of malware, including but not limited to adware and spyware programs that do not have the reproductive ability...

, or creating general havoc.

Some places of employment have developed measures in an attempt to combat and prevent employee crime. Places of employment sometimes implement security measures such as cameras, fingerprint records of employees, and background checks. Although privacy-advocates have questioned such methods, they appear to serve the interests of the organisations using them. Not only do these methods help prevent employee crime, but they protect the company from punishment and/or lawsuits for negligent hiring.

External links