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Crimes Against Morality: Definition & Examples

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Instructor: Jennifer Williams

Jennifer has taught various courses in U.S. Government, Criminal Law, Business, Public Administration and Ethics and has an MPA and a JD.

Crimes against morality are crimes that are considered to not have a victim when consenting adults are involved. Explore the definition and examples of crimes against morality, including prostitution, bigamy, pornography, illegal gambling, and use of controlled substances. Updated: 10/08/2021

Crimes Against Morality

Crimes against morality are a category of crime that is considered victimless because there is no specific victim, especially when committed against consenting adults. Morality is defined as a descriptive account of social and personal values about the ways people in society should behave. This type of crime generally offends those values, or 'code of conduct.' This type of crime includes prostitution, bigamy, pornography, illegal gambling and illegal drug use.

As a result of shifts in moral perceptions of what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior over the years, the United States has seen an increase in the legislation and regulation of crimes against morality.

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  • 0:03 Crimes Against Morality
  • 0:58 Bigamy
  • 2:13 Pornography
  • 3:40 Illegal Gambling
  • 4:10 Controlled Substances
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
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Prostitution is a crime of moral turpitude that involves the buying or selling of sex for profit. Prostitution includes soliciting for sexual acts and compelling another to complete sexual acts for money. This criminal act is punishable in most states by jail time. The focus of criminal law has increasingly thought of prostitution as not respectable, illegal and immoral.


Bigamy is a crime against morality that involves a married person marrying a second person while still being married to the first person. This is considered to be a crime against morality because it is considered to be harmful to the family - even if the current spouse agrees to it. Bigamy in most states is considered to be punishable by jail time.

An example of bigamy would be if a man and woman got married. Then, a year later, the husband decides to go out and marry a second woman while still being married to the first wife. This is considered to be a crime because he was still married to the first woman. The only way this would not be a crime is if the first wife had died.


Pornography is sex-related material designed to sexually arouse the person looking at it. These materials can be movies, pictures or magazines. Not all types of pornography are illegal, and in fact, many forms of it are protected by our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Pornography loses this protection when it becomes obscene or child-related. Possession, creation or sale of pornography that is obscene or child-related is a crime against morality.

Criminal pornography that is obscene lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. This definition may vary state-to-state because what some citizens in California may consider obscene or not obscene may not be the same as what citizens in Iowa think. Therefore, the laws may vary.

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