Mala Prohibita: Definition, Crimes & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition of Mala Prohibita
  • 0:50 Mala Prohibita Crimes
  • 1:15 Examples
  • 2:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Learn what constitutes a mala prohibita crime. Review mala prohibita crimes and examine several examples. In conclusion of the lesson, you will have a thorough understanding of mala prohibita crimes.

Definition of Mala Prohibita

Did you ever have the childhood experience where you did something your parents thought was wrong, and when you asked them why it was wrong, their response was, 'Because I said so?' Well, mala prohibita is a similar concept. It basically means that something is wrong 'because' it goes against the law. Let's examine this idea a little further.

Mala prohibita is a Latin phrase which means 'wrong because it is prohibited.' In criminal law, the term mala prohibita applies in instances where something is made criminal by a criminal statute. Generally, crimes that are mala prohibita do not harm people or property; they are typically statutes which apply to minor crimes. Moreover, mala prohibita crimes do not usually require intent.

Mala Prohibita Crimes

There are a variety of crimes that can be classified as mala prohibita. For instance, public intoxication constitutes a mala prohibita crime. Another crime is gambling, in states where it is prohibited. Other crimes include speeding and tax evasion. All of these crimes do not require that the person who committed them had the intent to do so; rather, just the fact that the person committed the act makes them guilty of the crime.


But what does it mean to commit a crime without intent? Imagine that you cannot find a parking spot in a crowded lot. You see a spot that has faded lines on the street. You believe it is a regular parking space, but it happens to be a handicapped parking space. You simply misread the street markings. You park in the space and subsequently, receive a citation for a traffic violation. You are charged of a mala prohibita crime: parking in a handicapped parking space when you do not have the proper permit. It doesn't matter that you believed the space was available for unrestricted use; you are guilty of breaking the statute regardless of your intent.

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