Natural Crime and Legal Crime
There exists a dichotomization of crime – between natural crime also called malum in se and legal crime or malum prohibitum. The average person may not be aware of this distinction and hence may view and treat all offenders in the same manner regardless of what type of crime they have committed. There are also individuals who advocate that legal crime offenders should not be given equal treatment as offenders of natural crime.
The basic difference between the two is that natural crimes are acts that are “evil in themselves” while legal crimes are acts that are wrong only because they are declared such by law (Hill and Hill, 2005). Examples of natural crimes are murder, rape, physical assault, theft, robbery or kidnapping. Instances of legal crimes involve tax evasion, operating a business without the required documentation, various types of fraud or privacy violations.
Natural crimes go against the basic morals of all existing societies and violate the rights to life, dignity and property which are at the core of individual existence. They are declared crimes by society even prior to or even without the formal legislation by government declaring them illegal. Natural crimes are gravely penalized under law and those convicted of them suffer consequences which include reclusion perpetua or the death penalty.
Because natural crimes are inherently illegal, individuals who commit them, especially rape, robbery and murder, are condemned by society and meted with extra-judicial punishment even by non-law enforcement citizens in the event that prohibiting laws against these crimes are repealed. The prohibition of natural crimes is what makes up common or traditional law (Hill and Hill, 2005).
Legal crimes, whose bulk is presently composed of white collar crimes, may not have been considered criminal acts since society’s political organization allowed the creation of laws as it is only in modern society that white collar job status emerged. Legal crimes may also be treated with varying gravity over time. In the United States for example, illegal immigration has not been as strictly prohibited as it has been within the past few years.
Moreover what is considered a legal crime in one country may not be considered such by another. Consider the laws on intellectual property rights or money laundering which have been adopted by developed countries but have only been gradually considered and enacted in less developed countries. What facilitated compliance are country organizations such as the World Trade Organization.
However, once ordinances, laws or statutes that prohibit such acts are abolished, they will not be considered illegal any longer nor will those who perpetuate it be appropriately penalized. Not being part of common or traditional law, the essence of legal crimes as offenses lie in their official declaration by government legislators as such and without formal statutes that prohibit them, they are not crimes at all.
The crime index of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation categorizes the crimes which it currently focuses its investigative efforts into national security priorities and criminal priorities. With the advent of terrorism exemplified in the 9/11 event, the FBI is currently mandated to “protect and defend the U.S. against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats and to enforce the criminal laws of the U.S.” (FBI, 2008).
National security priorities include counterterrorism, specifically international terrorism, domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; counterintelligence which includes counterespionage, counterproliferation and economic espionage; and cybercrimes such as computer intrusions, online predators, piracy or intellectual property theft and internet fraud (FBI, 2008).
Among the major criminal priorities of the FBI are the following: public corruption, e.g. government fraud, election fraud and foreign corrupt practices; civil rights violations such as hate crimes, human trafficking, color of law and freedom of access to clinics; white-collar crime as for instance antitrust, bankruptcy fraud, corporate or securities fraud, health care fraud, identity theft, insurance fraud, money laundering, mortgage fraud, telemarketing fraud as well as many other white collar frauds (FBI, 2008).
Also included in the criminal priorities are organized crime being committed by six identified crime syndicates based on their nationality and also sports bribery; and lastly major thefts and violent crimes as art theft, bank robberies, cargo theft, crimes against children, cruise ship crime, Indian Country crime, jewelry and gems theft, murder for hire, retail theft, vehicle theft and violent gangs (FBI, 2008).
Further, the agency established a Uniform Crime Reporting System in order to monitor crime statistics in the counties and cities of the various states. Included in the index of crimes are violent crimes, murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny-theft, motor-vehicle theft and arson (FBI, 2008). These crimes are generally malum in se as they are crimes against life, dignity and property.
Also considered malum in se are the major thefts and violent crimes, civil rights violations, international terrorism and organized crime. International terrorism always involves the objective of killing people in an indiscriminate manner and in their masses. Likewise, organized crime is responsible for the systematic commission of violence in society such as the effects of illicit drug proliferation and the sale and use of guns and ammunition.
Malum prohibitum involve the various white collar crimes, cybercrimes and public corruption as these entail either the violation of procedures defined by law or the code of ethics for standard operating procedures in government or corporate settings, the practice of one’s profession and the use of technologies and facilities such the internet and computer networks. These acts are punishable by law in the U.S. because of the established federal and/or state laws.
List of References
Federal Bureau of Investigation (2008). Retrieved 1 June 2008 from http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/prelim2007/index.html.
Hill, G.N. and Hill, K.T. (2005). Malum in se. Retrieved 1 June 2008 from http://legal- dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/malum+in+se.