Crime

Definition

Behavior that the law makes punishable as a public offense.  The elements of a crime typically come from statutes, but may also be supplied by the common law in states where the criminal common law still carries force.  

Overview

Crime is behavior, either by act or omission, defined by statutory or common law as deserving of punishment.  Although most crimes require the element of intent, certain minor crimes may be committed on the basis of strict liability even if the defendant had no specific mindset with regard to the criminal action.  For instance, parking violations are crimes that usually do not require prosecutors to establish intent.

Some crimes are considered mala prohibita ("bad because prohibited"); these are prohibited by statute but are not inherently evil.  Other crimes are considered mala in se ("bad in themselves"); these are considered inherently evil under general community standards.  The idea of mala in se formed the original justification for common law crimes.  However, many crimes that are today prohibited by statute also belong to the category of mala in se.

Crimes are prosecuted by government attorneys.  Such attorneys may represent a city, county, state, or the federal government.  Examples include the Attorney General of the United States, the attorney general of a state, federal district attorneys, and city attorneys. 

Crimes are ranked as greater violations of public order (felony) or as lesser violations (misdemeanor), and are adjudicated according to rules of criminal procedure.