What is a crime?

A crime Is the performance of an act or omission of an act punishable by law, in other words, if there is a breach of any relevant law, applicable and current, then a crime has been committed.

It is a behavior that violates the law. No matter how immoral, indecent or inappropriate, if it is not typified in the law, then it is not a criminal act. Criminal and criminal laws contain a specific list of possible human behaviors that will be punished legally for attempting against social order. These standards will be applied uniformly to all individuals who incur them and are coexisting under that authority or nation.

Murder Scene

At present, a series of procedures and investigations must be followed to determine how the individual who has committed the crime will be punished or punished. If through the investigation process it is proven that the person is guilty, a sentence will be established by the sentence that must be met.

This scope is quite broad because it depends on a number of factors, such as the nature of the offense, the crime committed, conditions, gravity, and a number of factors that may increase the penalty such as treachery, among others not less important.

In general, and especially depending on the country, state or region, penalties can range from: community service, monetary reparation or sanction, deprivation of liberty and in some countries to life imprisonment or death penalty.

What is the word crime used for?

Generally, the word"crime"is used to denote a serious crime although the gravity is variable depending on the crime committed and the sanctioning entity.

It is important to emphasize that crimes can be committed by both natural persons (one or more individuals) and by legal persons (companies, organizations, etc.)

Causes of crime

Crimes can occur because of many factors, perhaps several factors involved depending on the case and it is also possible that the true cause can not be determined truthfully, evidently varies by case and individual.

Among the possible causes are: socioeconomic, psychological, biological and behavioral factors of the individual.

In many cases, an important factor that detonates this type of behavior is the emotions And the problems that the individual goes through, not knowing how to control their emotional state or not being able to solve certain personal economic or social conditions.

These non-advantageous conditions can bring about the accomplishment or omission of acts punished by the law, either because from his emotional blockade he found no other viable solution or psychological problems and in some cases even to be instigated to commit a crime.

The above are just some of the causes but not the only ones that incite this type of behavior, the reasons can be very varied and criminal sociology is always in search of answers and patterns with regard to why crimes are committed.

Crime and sociology

According to criminal statistics there is the possibility that the commission of crimes are the product of certain adverse social conditions that incite and encourage the individual to perform these acts.

That is why criminal sociology has as a method to analyze the possible causes for which an increase has been generated in the commission of certain crimes and according to the results establish remedies and punishments suitable to achieve a balanced social order.

Basically, if we can understand the reason for a criminal behavior, then we will have a better chance of predicting what will happen and thus take steps to control, eliminate or improve such behavior.

Therefore, in order to achieve social order, competent authorities may impose certain mechanisms such as the creation of laws and / or regulations, sanctions, penalties and legal reforms through which the competent justice administration will seek to achieve control and Regulation of society when existing means prove insufficient.

Social control refers to all procedures defined to control certain behaviors, is found in all spheres and groups of life, both in school, university, work, religion, in prison, in the street. In all these areas, individuals react to this type of control and are generally accepted, established and reaffirmed.

In order to achieve social order it is generally possible to make use of persuasion, induction or coercion.

From a certain point of view, law and regulatory agencies can be considered as a kind of social control agency that establishes a series of normative bodies to be implemented and accepted by the community in exchange for security and social order.


Criminology is a science whose purpose is to study crime and delinquency as a social phenomenon, analyze the causes of legal non-compliance, how criminals act, possible ways to avoid these situations, among others.

Criminology has three interrelated divisions:

  1. The Sociology of criminal laws : Try to analyze the conditions under which criminal laws are developed and explain the differences between the procedures and rules used in police commands and courts.
  2. The Sociology of crime and social psychology of criminal behavior : Study the economic, political and social conditions in which crimes are committed or prevented.
  3. The Sociology of punishment and correction : Try to study and analyze the procedures used to control the criminal incidence.

Relativity of crime

Crime is relative because criminal and criminal laws are in constant change over time, possess a changing character.

Many of the current laws regulating traffic, manufacturing, etc., were previously non-existent in past generations and even many activities and behaviors that were previously punishable are now fully accepted and legal.

Previously, activities such as printing a book, using tobacco, ether, coffee, selling coins to foreigners, saving gold at home, buying items to resell them at a higher price and writing a check for less than a dollar were considered crimes.

It is also very important to note that laws differ and change depending on jurisdiction, state or country at a particular time. There are countries where all their states or regions are subject to the same laws uniformly, but there are also countries where each state has some different and particular laws.

In addition, the laws are subject to the interpretation of the judge or entity in charge of judging and punishing / correcting the criminal act.

Crime vs crime

The comparison between the terms"crime"and"crime"has been subject to many analyzes by different scholars of the subject and for sure no specific agreement has been reached.

Usually the word crime is used to refer to actions or omissions previously typified in the law, which involve the establishment of a penalty or punishment to those who incur in them; On the other hand, crime refers to the same thing, except that in most cases the word crime is used exclusively to denote a more serious or offensive crime.

Now, both are universal concepts and to analyze whether or not there is a difference between them, first of all, we must consider the relativity of crime and therefore, because of its great similarity, the relativity of crime.

Taking this into account, who decides what is a crime and what is a crime? There is no specific table that determines the severity of each and that is why relativity plays an important role in specifying the difference between these terms, it is up to each one, whether reader or judicial body to categorize it according to whether the case.

If we take into account that the meaning is practically the same, then we can conclude that the only way to distinguish one from the other is by studying the legal order to be analyzed and the figures or terms that are used to determine both severity and The"title or name"given to the act of non-compliance.

Classification of crimes

Crimes do not form part of a type of homogeneous behavior, there is a wide and diverse range of acts prohibited by law.

If we look at crime as a whole we run the risk of generalizing and ignoring important differences between them because of their relativity and if we look at very specific cases, we run the risk of being very specific.

According to Sutherland and others in their Principles of Criminology, (1992) taking into account the risks, it has been considered to classify them according to different criteria: In consideration of penalties, according to statistics and guilty form.

Criminal classification according to the penalty and gravity or atrocity of the same

It is perhaps the most used to determine and differentiate crimes.

  • Crimes : This reference is generally used to treat serious crimes involving deprivation of liberty or even the death penalty (according to the country). Usually, for these serious crimes, the term"crime"is also generally used, which denotes an intrinsic gravity.
  • Faults or infractions (contraventions) : Refers to much milder legal violations, usually punishable by fines, community service or deprivation of liberty for short periods of time. In colloquial language they rarely use the word"crime"to describe such acts.

It is not particularly a very useful classification since it is difficult to distinguish and delimit one from another. Sometimes infringements that may be called minor may become serious over time or even that same"slight"infraction may be"serious"in another jurisdiction subject to other rules.

Statistical classification according to the purpose of the crime

A commonly used scheme is:

  • Crime against the person : As for example homicide, murder, assault, aggression, torture, assassination, injuries, etc.
  • Crime against property : Such as theft, motor vehicle theft, theft, vandalism, invasion of private property, fire, damages,
  • Crime against public order : Such as drug use, disorderly conduct, tax evasion, instigating to commit crimes, intimidation, refers to the creation of rules more than anything designed to maintain public order and morality.

Types of crimes

There are many ways to divide and subdivide crimes according to how they were perpetuated, the result, damage they cause, and so on.

Classification of crime according to forms of guilt

  • Doloso : When there is the intention to perform the act on the part of the individual or criminal and in fact commits it.
  • Guilty : The individual does not have the intention or intention to break the law but in fact does so for lack of care or any other reason, this does not exclude him from being tried or punished but it may reduce the penalty if he can prove it and if the law To which it is subjected allows.

According to the form of the action

  • By commission : As a result of which the subject performed an act punishable by law. In all cases, ignorance of the rule is not an excuse for non-compliance so taking into account that it was prohibited or not, even after committing it will have a punishment.
  • By default : In this case it is not due to the accomplishment of an illegal act but the abstention and non-performance of a duty previously ordered by the laws.

According to the quality of the active subject

  • Public action : It is not necessary a specific complaint of the affected to proceed to the investigation, can sue any or even the public organisms.
  • From private instance : They need a prior complaint from the affected party in order to proceed with the investigation.

According to the result

  • materials : It is effected through the performance of a damage or act that generates a specific result. For example: the result of a murder is the death of a person, the result of a robbery is the possession of the thing, etc.
  • Formal : It is not necessary the result itself, in this case it is enough only the fulfillment of a series of factors conducive, the danger that it occurs or to the intention or manifestation of will. For example: falsification, poisoning, calumny, false testimony, etc.

For the damage they cause

  • Of injury : Obvious damage to some good or individual.
  • Of danger : In the preservation of an object is saved, it is not necessary the execution, enough the danger that it happens.

By the psychic relation between the subject and his act

  • Preterintentional : When there is an intention to commit a crime or fault but you get as a result a more serious, for example: he intended to injure an individual but the result was to take his life.

By the number of people

  • Individual : Performed by a single person.
  • Collective : Performed by two or more people.


  1. Douglas, John; Burgess, Ann; Burgess, Allen & Ressler, Robert. (2013). "Crime Classification Manual". Third edition. Wiley.
  2. Downes, David & Rock, Paul. (2011). " Understanding Deviance ". Sixth Edition. Oxford.
  3. Ferri, Enrico. (nineteen ninety six). " Criminal Sociology ".
  4. Hester, Stephen & Eglin, Peter. (1992). " TO Sociology Of Crime ". Routledge, New York.
  5. Sanchez Castro, Raul. (2013). " Criminal Sociology ".
  6. Stuart, Henry & Lanier, Mark. (2001). "What is Crime? Controversies over the nature of crime and what to do about it." Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  7. Sutherland, Edwin, Cressey, Donald & Luckenbill, David. (1992). " Principles Of Criminology ". Eleventh Edition. Northern Illinois University. General Hall, Rowman & Littlefield publishers, Inc.
  8. Wilson, James & Herrstein, Richard. (1988). "Crime & Human Nature. The definitive study of the causes of crime". The free press, New York.

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