the intentional commission of an act usually deemed socially harmful or dangerous and specifically defined, prohibited, and punishable under criminal law. Crimes in the common-law tradition were originally defined primarily by judicial decision. Most common-law crimes are now codified. According to a generally accepted principle, nullum crimen sine lege, there can be no crime without a law. A crime generally consists of both conduct (the actus reus) and a concurrent state of mind (the mens rea). Criminal acts include arson, assault and battery, bribery, burglary, child abuse, counterfeiting, embezzlement, extortion, forgery, fraud, hijacking, homicide, kidnapping, perjury, piracy, rape, sedition, smuggling, treason, theft, and usury. See also arrest; conspiracy; criminology; felony and misdemeanour; indictment; rights of the accused; self-incrimination; sentence; statute of limitations; war crime.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on crime, visit

Seen & Heard

What made you look up crime? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.