American criminal law includes laws that have existed in the United States since it was a group of colonies under British rule. These laws categorized crimes into two different categories: mala in se and mala prohibita. Mala in se crimes are crimes against society, such as rape, murder, and robbery.
The term “mala prohibita” is Latin, and it refers to crimes being wrong because the underlying actions are prohibited. What makes it prohibited is a statute, as opposed to a moral repugnance to the action. Mala prohibita crimes are considered victimless crimes.
The types of crimes that tend to be classified as mala prohibita crimes include:
- Copyright infringement
- Drug use
- Government criticism
- Indecent exposure
- White collar crimes
- Petty theft
- Parking violations
- Disrupting funeral services
No. Whether a crime is considered a malum prohibitum crime or malum in se crime does not really matter when it comes to sentencing. More weight is placed on a defendant’s:
- Criminal history
- Actions behind committing the crime
- Type of crime committed such as misdemeanor or felony
- Degree of committing the offense
Rather, the classification has more of a bearing on whether a crime is considered to be a felony or a misdemeanor, which is something that is decided before anyone is charged with that crime.
Generally, these crimes do not carry the type of tough sentences that mala in se crimes do. They generally have misdemeanor sentences with fines and less than one year in jail.
Yes. If you are facing a criminal charged such as indecent exposure or tax fraud, contact a criminal lawyer. The lawyer will explain your legal options and the best recourse to take.