What we have here is some information on victimless crimes, wherein we put forth the definition of this concept and also discuss its types with some examples, so as to make it easier for you to understand the same.
If there is no victim, there is no crime!
When Russia legalized homosexuality for a brief period following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, it was based on the idea that ‘if there was no victim, there was no crime’.
That the United States has the highest prison population rate in the world for more than a decade now, is a well-known fact. What most people don’t know, is that over 80 percent of these inmates are incarcerated for victimless crimes, i.e., crimes that defy society’s prohibition of certain activities. So is there actually something called victimless crime or crime where there is no victim? While the term may not boast of popular usage, the statistical data, which states that over 80 percent of people in the prison are convicted for such crimes, does speak volumes in itself.
Understanding What Are Victimless Crimes
As the name suggests, victimless crimes are those crimes wherein there is no apparent victim, as such a person or property is not harmed physically. An apt definition will be ‘illegal behavior which does not violate or threaten anyone’s rights’. The person may either act alone (e.g. drug abuse or gambling), or two or more people can be involved in a consensual act (e.g. prostitution).
Example: Let’s take the example of prostitution for instance. In the United States, offering sexual favors in lieu of money is considered a criminal act, wherein both parties can be arrested for violating public decency laws. If, however, both of them have given their consent to the act, then neither of them can be considered a victim.
It is worth noting that such crimes usually happen in confined spaces, and therefore, other people are unlikely to take of note of them. As nobody is watching and nobody is victimized―those involved do not consider themselves victims―there is no complainant in such cases. Instead, the police have to take action on their own. As a result of this, it is a lot more difficult to detect and prosecute victimless crimes compared to crimes wherein there are victims.
As these crimes have the consent of those people involved, they are sometimes known as consensual crimes. In a true sense though, consensual crimes are crimes involving more than one participant, all of whom give their consent.
Different Types of Victimless Crimes
Depending on the area of jurisdiction, the lengthy list of victimless crimes includes drug abuse, prostitution, gambling, public drunkenness, homosexuality, vagrancy, obscenity, riding a bike without a helmet, or driving a motor vehicle without a seat belt, as well as more serious crimes like abortion and suicide. In the United States, for instance, illicit drug abuse, prostitution, and gambling are considered victimless crimes.
In a broad sense, these crimes can be grouped into different types. For example, there are moral crimes, wherein the particular illegal act has something to do with the morality or norms set by the society. Homosexuality between consenting adults, for instance, is considered a victimless crime on the grounds that it violates common decency laws. Other examples of such crimes include sodomy, public drunkenness, and even vagrancy. Then there are crimes against the state, such as tax frauds, not carrying an ID, carrying a gun without license, etc., which also fall in this category.
Adultery was considered a victimless crime at one point of time, but has since been removed from the list.
Many people call for outlawing laws which prohibit victimless acts. They argue that it hampers the individual’s freedom, as he is at the receiving end despite his consent. Additionally, some people are of the opinion that incarceration of people convicted for such crimes puts immense pressure on the already crowded prison system. As opposed to this, those in favor of victimless crimes being punished argue that the representatives of the majority have the right to prohibit and punish anyone who indulges in any act that offends the majority of the population, even if there is no direct victim.