malum prohibitum

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Malum prohibitum is an act that is not inherently immoral but is prohibited by statute. Common examples of malum prohibitum actions include jaywalking and regulatory violations. Malum prohibitum offenses are generally found in statutes and include many crimes with strict liability components where the offender’s mental state is not relevant for culpability. The concept of malum prohibitum is contrasted with the concept of malum in se, which describes acts that are inherently immoral regardless of their legality

The concept of malum prohibitum has also been applied in contract law, where malum prohibitum contracts are void only if they fall within the area of conduct that a legislature intended to deter, whereas malum in se contracts are absolutely void.

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