Chapter 2

Report
Chapter 2
Crime and Its
Consequences
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A Legal Definition
A legal definition of crime is used in criminal
justice in the United States.
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A Legal Definition
Some behaviors prohibited by criminal law
should not be. Overcriminalization arises in
victimless crimes:
Gambling
Prostitution involving consenting adults
Homosexual acts between consenting adults
Use of some illegal drugs, such as marijuana
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A Legal Definition
For some behaviors prohibited by criminal
law, the law is not routinely enforced.
Nonenforcement is common for:
White-collar crimes
Government crimes
Victimless crimes
Minor crimes
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Nonenforcement causes disrespect for the law.
A Legal Definition
Behaviors that some people think should be
prohibited by criminal law are not. This is
undercriminalization.
undercriminalization
The failure to prohibit some behaviors that arguably
should be prohibited.
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Elements of Crime
Technically and ideally, a crime has not been
committed unless the following elements are
present:
Harm
Legality
Actus reus
Mens rea
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Causation
Concurrence
Punishment
A Legal Definition
For crime to occur, there must be harm, either
physical or verbal.
Thinking about committing a crime is not a crime.
A verbal threat to strike another person is a crime.
harm
The external consequence required to make an
action a crime.
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Legality
Legality has two aspects:
The harm must be legally forbidden
A criminal law must not be ex post facto.
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Actus Reus
Actus reus requires actual criminal conduct,
or criminal negligence:
If parents fail to provide food, clothing, and shelter
for their children, they are committing a crime.
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Mens Rea
Mens rea refers to the mental aspect of crime.
Criminal conduct usually refers to intentional action
or inaction.
Sometimes, negligence or reckless action can be
criminal.
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mens rea
Criminal intent; a guilty state of mind.
negligence
The failure to take reasonable precautions to prevent harm.
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Mens Rea – Legal Defenses
In the United States, an offender is not considered
responsible or is considered less resp. if he or she:
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Acted under duress
Was underage
Was insane
Acted in self-defense or defense of a third party
Was entrapped
Acted out of necessity
Causation
In order for a crime to be a legal crime, there
must be a causal relationship between the
legally forbidden harm and the actus reus. The
criminal act must lead directly to the harm
without a long delay.
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Concurrence
There must be concurrence between the actus
reus and the mens rea; the criminal conduct
and the criminal intent must occur together.
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Punishment
For a behavior to be considered a crime, there
must be a statutory provision for punishment
or at least the threat of punishment.
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Degrees or Categories of Crime
Crimes can be distinguished by degree or
severity of the offense by being divided into:
Felonies—severe crimes
Misdemeanors—less severe crimes
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Degrees or Categories of Crime
Another way of distinguishing crime is
between:
Mala in se
• Rape
• Murder
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Mala prohibita
• Trespassing
• Gambling
• Prostitution
mala in se
“Wrong in themselves.” A description applied to crimes
that are characterized by universality and timelessness.
mala prohibita
Offenses that are illegal because laws define them as
such. They lack universality and timelessness.
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The Measurement of Crime
What Americans know about crime is, by and
large, based on statistics supplied by
government agencies.
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Crime Statistics
Statistics about crime and delinquency are
probably the most unreliable and most
difficult of all social statistics.
Behavior may be wrongly labeled.
Crimes go undetected.
Crimes are sometimes not reported to police.
Crimes may be inaccurately recorded by police.
Statistics do not include the dark figure of crime.
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dark figure of crime
The number of crimes not officially recorded by the
police.
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Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
• One of the primary sources of crime
statistics in the United States is the uniform
crime reports.
Today more than 17,000 city, county, and state law
enforcement agencies (representing 95 percent of the U.S.
population) are active in the program.
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Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
The UCR includes two major indexes:
Offenses known to the police
Statistics about persons arrested
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Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
Offenses known to the police include eight
index crimes.
Only about 35% of crimes, on average, are
reported to the police.
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eight index crimes
The Part I offenses in the
FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.
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Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter
Forcible rape
• Larceny-theft
Robbery
• Motor vehicle theft
Aggravated assault
• Arson
Burglary
Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
The other major crime index in the UCR is
based on arrest statistics, provided for the
eight index crimes as well as 21 other crimes
and status offenses.
status offenses
An act that is illegal for a juvenile but would not be a
crime if committed by an adult.
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Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
The UCR also includes statistics on crime index
offenses cleared by the police, which is a rough
index of police performance in solving crimes.
Murder – 70%
Rape – 50%
Robbery – 25%
Agg. Assault – 60%
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20% of all Index crimes
Burglary – 15%
Larceny – 20%
MVT – 15%
Arson – 15%
National Incident-Based
Reporting System (NIBRS)
• The NIBRS is the result of a joint task force
of the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the
FBI aimed at improving the quality of
information contained in the UCR.
• The NIBRS contains more data on more
crimes than the UCR.
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National Crime Victimization
Surveys (NCVS)
The other major source of crime statistics in
the U.S. is the National Crime Victimization
Surveys.
For nearly all offenses, the NCVS shows more
crimes being committed than the UCR,
because of victims’ failure to report crimes or
failure by police to report crimes to the FBI.
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national crime victimization surveys
A source of crime statistics based on interviews in which
respondents are asked whether they have been victims of
any of the FBI’s index offenses (except murder and
nonnegligent manslaughter and arson) or other crimes
during the past six months. If they have, they are asked to
provide information about the experience.
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Self-Report Crimes
Self-report crime surveys ask selected
subjects (often high school students) whether
they have committed crimes.
Examples:
The National Youth Survey
The National Institute on Drug Abuse effort to ascertain
levels of smoking, drinking and drug use among high school
students
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Who the Victims Are
Victimization is not spread evenly through the
U.S. population. The most likely victims of
violent crime are
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Younger (age 12-24)
Never married, divorced, or separated
Poor
Minority
Urban residents
Men
Living in the West or Midwest
Who the Victims Are
The majority of men (55%) were victimized
by strangers.
The majority of women (68%) were
victimized by someone they knew.
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