Crime is a bad thing. And the previous sentence was an understatement, and an inaccurate description of the concept of Crime.
When someone commits a crime he or she, for sure, has broken a law that applies to the place and situation he or she is in. The principal statement of crime is that, if there is a law that is broken, there must be retribution, or justice meted.
Quick question. You run a red light. This means you have broken traffic laws. Does this mean you are a criminal?
If that were so, then probably three-quarters of the U.S.’s driving population would be criminals. Luckily, this is not the case. Crime, in a broad sense, refers to acts that violate political or moral law. An even more specific definition of Crime is the violation of criminal law.
Since running a red light is a violation of traffic laws and not criminal laws, we aren’t that ready to label more that half of the drivers on the streets today as criminals.
The general rules of defining crime may vary from country to country, culture to culture.
“Actus Reus and Mens Rea”, yes, I know. Two words that don’t really mean anything to most laypeople. Actus Reus means “guilty action.” This means an act of crime has been committed. Mens rea means “guilty mind.” This means there was malicious intentions by a party. Generally, for an act to be counted as a crime, both concepts must be present.
Corpus Delicti. Some people are as guilty of a crime as can be. But somehow, you find them free of guilt in the court of law. Usually, this is because there has been no corpus delicti found (Yes, more Latin words…). Without corpus delicti (or “proof of a crime”) there can be no prosecution of a crime.
Assisting a Crime. It may also be a crime to conspire in order to commit other crimes, or helping others to commit crimes (in which case one becomes an accomplice).
In some systems, the simple association for organizing a crime is punished. Roles that accomplices play include being a ‘lookout,’ or simply assisting in the communications of criminals in committing crimes.
Aborted Plans? In some areas, the attempt alone to commit a crime may be punished, even if the crime is not completed. For instance, it is generally a crime to attempt to murder someone, even if one has not succeeded in doing so.
The Insane Way Out. Most western systems do not punish to the full extent individuals who commit crimes unintentionally or are not yet of legal age. Those who have been proven to be insane at the time of the crime are examples of such.
Since insane people are said to not have proper control of their decision making faculties, no malicious intent can be accused against them.
When proof of a crime can be found, person can be put on trial for the criminal act. This allows the suspect to prove innocence, or for the court to prove his or her guilt. If found guilty, the person is now subject to the punishment accorded to him or her by the state.
Committing a crime is no joke. And being accused of such isn’t either. A good understanding of the basic concepts of the law makes understanding, appreciating, and obeying the law a more straightforward and appealing endeavor.