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Political Crime: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Politics and Crime
  • 1:20 Common Types of…
  • 2:58 Examples of Political Crimes
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Political crime is an offense committed with the intent to harm a federal, state, or local government under certain conditions. This lesson discusses political crimes, what differentiates them from other crimes, and some examples of political crime over the years.

Politics and Crime

Politics and crime unfortunately have been connected dating all the way back to the days of tribal leadership. A political crime is any crime that is judged to have been committed in order to harm the state, state's government, or political system of a state. This means that a crime committed by a politician is not necessarily a political crime. If a governor decides to assault his wife, he will have committed the crime of domestic abuse. However, if the same governor takes a bribe to advocate for a law to benefit a large corporation, then it would be considered a political crime.

This means that although violence can be part of political crimes, they can be non-violent in nature. Although the United States does not have a crime category that pertains solely to political crimes, they have occurred in the past, and individuals continue to be prosecuted and convicted. The accused may believe that something needs to happen that can only be done with manipulation or are afraid for their nation, so they are willing to commit a crime in order to protect it in their mind. Despite the criminal's best intentions, these actions are still illegal and are punished with varying severity; instead of categorizing the crimes under a broad header, they are dealt with on an individual basis.

Common Types of Political Crimes

The following is a list of some of the most common political crimes and a short description of each.

Bribery is the act of giving money or assets to a political figure in exchange for that person to vote or speak on behalf of a certain law or belief system. This is a crime because the political figure is doing this for their own gain, and not for their own personal ideals or to benefit the citizens of the state.

Treason is when a person does something to deliberately betray their country. This could be anything from the murder of a political figure to leaking state secrets to another country.

Sedition is the process of getting a group of people impassioned to create a revolution against their own government.

Espionage occurs when a country or group uses individuals to spy on the government and report back.

Theft can vary as a political crime, but it can be a political figure stealing money from the government or even stealing money from groups and activists.

Perjury is lying under oath, but it is a political crime if an individual is caught lying under oath to wrongfully convict a political figure or cause unrest within the government.

Human rights violations is political crime is wide ranging and encompasses some of the most severe crimes committed against the people of a leaders' own nation or another state. Human rights violations include starting wars of aggression, genocide, torture, and various war crimes, among other offenses.

Whistleblowing is a controversial political crime. This crime refers to people who inform the public about alleged crimes they have seen or heard about within the political sphere.

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