infamous crime

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An infamous crime is a felonious offense. In some states, the term may also refer to crimes that involve corruption, such as fraud or embezzlement. In addition to the severity of the offense, other factors that may contribute to a crime being deemed infamous include the degree of harm caused to the victim, the level of planning and premeditation involved, and the degree of public outrage or media attention generated by the offense.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

In the Iowa Supreme Court case of Griffin v. Pate (2016), when deciding if the crime of delivery of a controlled substance was considered an ‘infamous crime’ under the voter disqualification provision of the Iowa Constitution, Chief Justice Cady opined: “The district court held the crime is an infamous crime, and a conviction thereof disqualifies persons from voting in Iowa. Following the analysis we have used in the past to interpret provisions of our constitution, we agree and affirm the judgment of the district court. The term 'infamous crime' was generally recognized to include felony crimes at the time our constitution was adopted. This meaning has not sufficiently changed or evolved to give rise to a different meaning today.”

[Last updated in March of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]