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Criminal law is by definition jurisdictional and the definition for a crime may differ greatly from one jurisdiction to the next. Generally the definitions for crimes may be found in a country's penal code. In contrast, the procedural aspects of a given criminal justice system will be found in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Following is a sample list of some of the most common crimes that are present in almost every criminal justice system around the globe.

List of Crimes

  • Crimes Against the Person
    • Murder
    • Felony Murder
    • Manslaughter - Voluntary
    • Manslaughter - Involuntary
    • Assault
    • Battery
    • Mayhem
    • Rape
    • Kidnapping
    • Human or Sex Trafficking

  • Crimes Against Property
    • Arson
    • Blackmail
    • Burglary
    • Embezzlement
    • Extortion
    • False Pretense
    • Larceny
    • Receiving Stolen Property
    • Robbery
    • Trespass

Common Law Definition of a Crime

In order for a crime to have been committed, certain elements must be fulfilled. The exact definition of what constitutes a crime can differ from country to country.

As a general rule, every crime has four elements:

  1. Actus Reus (Voluntary Act)
  2. Mens Rea (Culpable Mental State)
  3. Concurrence of Actus Reus and Mens Rea
  4. Damages

In addition, each crime itself can be broken down to elements. In the United States, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had the requisite mental state for each element in order to prove the crime.

Model Penal Code Definition of a Crime

The American Law Institute's Model Penal Code continues to have great influence in the United States and in other common law countries around the world. The Model Penal Code take a somewhat different approach to criminal liability than traditional common law, although they are very similar. In order for criminal liability to exist, the Model Penal Code requires the following elements to be proven:

  1. Conduct that
    1. inflicts or threatens
    2. substantial harm to individual or public interests
  2. without justification
  3. without excuse