Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.
Definitions and Types of Crime
It seems like no matter what day it is, there is always a news story bombarding you with some sort of crime. From a terrorist act in another country to a robbery in your neck of the woods, there is always some type of crime happening somewhere in the world. These days, crime is something that you just cannot escape. Even celebrities can't seem to escape it. The media is quick to capitalize on any legal troubles the famous get into or any crimes committed against someone famous.
Crime is a hot topic, especially when it involves a celebrity, but did you ever stop for a minute and ask yourself what is crime? Well, let's look at this question and examine the concept of crime. Crime consists of conduct that is in violation of federal, state or local laws. When a law is broken, there is a penalty imposed. The penalty can include a loss of one's freedom or even one's life. Without a law to indicate the particular prohibited behavior, there can be no crime. Therefore, even if an individual's behavior is so horrible that it is shocking, it will still not be considered criminal if there is no law making it a crime.
Let's take a look deeper into what crime is and how it is defined through looking at some famous cases involving celebrities.
Categories of Crime
There are three categories of crime:
- Violations (also known as infractions)
Felonies are the most serious of crimes that one can commit. Felonies are punishable by one year or more imprisonment. In fact, there are some states which impose the death penalty for certain types of felony crimes. Felony crime includes personal crimes, such as murder, robbery and rape. Other types are crimes against property, including burglary or larceny.
One well-known celebrity case that involved a felony charge was the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Celebrity O.J. Simpson, the former husband of Nicole Brown Simpson, was charged with the murders of the two victims. After a lengthy public trial, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the felony murder charges.
Misdemeanors are less serious crimes. These crimes are punishable by less than one year imprisonment. Examples of misdemeanors include assault, battery or writing bad checks. For instance, in 2011, actress Lindsay Lohan pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge for stealing a $2,500 necklace.
Finally, violations are less serious than misdemeanors and include traffic violations or violations of town or city ordinances. Recently, actor Alec Baldwin received a ticket for riding his bicycle down the wrong side of the road in New York City. This is an example of a violation of a New York City ordinance.
Types of Crime
There are many different types of crime. One category of crime is crimes against individuals, often called personal crimes. The harm that is sustained due to a personal crime is always against a person. This category of crime includes:
- Forcible rape
- Aggravated assault
One celebrity crime that constitutes a personal crime was the 1980 murder of John Lennon. Lennon was shot four times in the back of his head by his assailant, and he died. Lennon's murder was a personal crime because the harm was aimed against Lennon as an individual, as opposed to his property.
Another category of crime is property crimes, which are not directed specifically at individual people but aimed at property. With property crime, the property may be destroyed or the property may be defaced. Usually, people are not injured, but it is possible that individuals may be harmed, such as in arson. Crimes against property include:
- Motor vehicle theft
An example of a celebrity property crime is the burglary of Paris Hilton's Malibu home. In 2013, Hilton's home was burglarized for the seventh time. Burglars got away with clothing, purses and pictures. This is an example of property crime because the harm was not against Paris Hilton as a person but solely against her property.
Views on Crime
There are three views on crime. The first of these views is known as the consensus view of crime. Under the consensus view of crime, crimes consist of behaviors that harm the majority of people in society. As a result, criminal law has been established to control these harmful behaviors. The consensus view further supports the belief that the criminal law represents the values and norms of the majority of society. In other words, criminal law, and the actions the law defines as criminal, illustrates the consensus of public opinion.
The second view on crime is known as the conflict view of crime. Under the conflict view of crime, the law is established and controlled by the rich and powerful. This group utilizes the law to control the lower classes and the poor of society. According to this view, the law helps the rich and powerful to maintain their place in the world, preserve their economic position and control the actions of those who may disagree with their ideas and values.
The third and final view on crime is referred to as the interactionist view of crime. According to the interactionist view of crime, crimes are illegal simply because they conflict with social norms. Moreover, the law is designed in accordance with the preferences and values of socially and politically active individuals. Therefore, crimes are created by those who are in power. As a result, under the interactionist view of crime, something that's a crime today could be perfectly legal tomorrow if those in power have a change of attitude.
Let's review what we learned from this lesson.
First, crime consists of conduct which is in violation of federal, state or local laws for which there is a penalty. In addition, there are three types of crimes: felonies, misdemeanors and violations. Each one carries a different penalty depending upon the nature and circumstances of the crime.
There are various categories of crime, including crimes against individuals and crimes against property.
There are three types of views on crime: the consensus view, the conflict view and the interactionist view. Each view takes has its own perspective on what crime is and how the law relates to crime.
After this lesson is finished, you should be able to:
- Define crime
- List the three categories of crime and describe their punishments
- State some different types of crimes
- Identify and describe the three views on crime
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