In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority.[1] The term "crime" does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,[2] though statutory definitions have been provided for certain purposes.[3] The most popular view is that crime is a category created by law; in other words, something is a crime if declared as such by the relevant and applicable law.[2] One proposed definition is that a crime or offence (or criminal offence) is an act harmful not only to some individual but also to a community, society or the state ("a public wrong"). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law.[1][4]

The notion that acts such as murder, rape and theft are to be prohibited exists worldwide.[5] What precisely is a criminal offence is defined by criminal law of each country. While many have a catalogue of crimes called the criminal code, in some common law countries no such comprehensive statute exists.

The state (government) has the power to severely restrict one's liberty for committing a crime. In modern societies, there are procedures to which investigations and trials must adhere. If found guilty, an offender may be sentenced to a form of reparation such as a community sentence, or, depending on the nature of their offence, to undergo imprisonment, life imprisonment or, in some jurisdictions, execution.

Usually, to be classified as a crime, the "act of doing something criminal" (actus reus) must – with certain exceptions – be accompanied by the "intention to do something criminal" (mens rea).[4]

While every crime violates the law, not every violation of the law counts as a crime. Breaches of private law (torts and breaches of contract) are not automatically punished by the state, but can be enforced through civil procedure.


When informal relationships and sanctions prove insufficient to establish and maintain a desired social order, a government or a state may impose more formalized or stricter systems of social control. With institutional and legal machinery at their disposal, agents of the State can compel populations to conform to codes and can opt to punish or attempt to reform those who do not conform.

Authorities employ various mechanisms to regulate (encouraging or discouraging) certain behaviors in general. Governing or administering agencies may for example codify rules into laws, police citizens and visitors to ensure that they comply with those laws, and implement other policies and practices that legislators or administrators have prescribed with the aim of discouraging or preventing crime. In addition, authorities provide remedies and sanctions, and collectively these constitute a criminal justice system. Legal sanctions vary widely in their severity; they may include (for example) incarceration of temporary character aimed at reforming the convict. Some jurisdictions have penal codes written to inflict permanent harsh punishments: legal mutilation, capital punishment or life without parole.

Usually, a natural person perpetrates a crime, but legal persons may also commit crimes. Conversely, at least under U.S. law, nonpersons such as animals cannot commit crimes.[6]

The sociologist Richard Quinney has written about the relationship between society and crime. When Quinney states "crime is a social phenomenon" he envisages both how individuals conceive crime and how populations perceive it, based on societal norms.[7]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Misdaad
العربية: جريمة
azərbaycanca: Cinayət
বাংলা: অপরাধ
Bân-lâm-gú: Hoān-chōe
беларуская: Злачынства
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Злачынства
भोजपुरी: अपराध
български: Престъпление
bosanski: Kriminal
brezhoneg: Torfed
català: Crim
Чӑвашла: Криминал
čeština: Trestný čin
Cymraeg: Trosedd
Deutsch: Verbrechen
eesti: Kuritegu
Ελληνικά: Έγκλημα
español: Crimen
Esperanto: Krimo
euskara: Krimen
فارسی: بزه
føroyskt: Lógarbrot
français: Crime
Frysk: Misdie
Gaeilge: Coireacht
galego: Crime
한국어: 범죄
हिन्दी: अपराध
hrvatski: Kazneno djelo
Ido: Krimino
Bahasa Indonesia: Pidana
íslenska: Glæpur
italiano: Crimine
עברית: עבירה
Basa Jawa: Kadurjanan
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಅಪರಾಧ
ქართული: დანაშაული
қазақша: Қылмыс
Latina: Scelus
latviešu: Noziegums
Limburgs: Criminaliteit
македонски: Злосторство
मराठी: अपराध
Bahasa Melayu: Jenayah
Mirandés: Crime
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ရာဇဝတ်မှု
Nederlands: Misdaad
日本語: 犯罪
occitan: Crime
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Jinoyat
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਜੁਰਮ
Patois: Kraim
português: Crime
română: Infracțiune
Runa Simi: Q'uma
русский: Преступление
Scots: Crime
සිංහල: අපරාධ
Simple English: Crime
slovenčina: Trestný čin
slovenščina: Kriminal
Soomaaliga: Gef
کوردی: تاوان
српски / srpski: Злочин
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kriminal
suomi: Rikos
svenska: Brott
Tagalog: Krimen
தமிழ்: குற்றம்
తెలుగు: నేరం
тоҷикӣ: Ҷиноят
Türkçe: Suç
українська: Злочин
اردو: جُرم
Tiếng Việt: Tội phạm
文言: 罪犯
Winaray: Krimen
ייִדיש: פארברעכן
粵語: 犯罪
中文: 犯罪