There’s plenty about the crimes that we know, but there’s also plenty that we don’t. Consider victimless crime, for example. We won’t blame you if you never come to know about it, but such crime has existed all the way to date. A crime without a victim? Well, that’s interesting. So, without further ado, let’s jump in to know what is a victimless crime.
When we hear about any crime, our minds instantly start wondering about the victims. Who got affected? How many were injured/killed? Who were they? A sense of sympathy for the victims awakens inside us and we can’t help feeling sad for those who got affected. Sometimes it’s someone who became a target of gun violence, other times, it’s the victim of sexual assault. But while some crimes are quite horrendous, including the aforementioned, victimless crimes are not so abominable in nature. Because, just as the name suggests, there are no victims, only perpetrators in such crimes.
Victimless crimes are sort of self-harming or immoral acts that don’t involve any third party and are committed by the consensus between two parties or upon the wish of an individual. These sorts of crimes don’t render harm to any other individual and serve as a source of pleasure for an individual/people involved.
Nevertheless, though it may be for the pleasure of the people committing such crimes and doesn’t expand to any third party, it’ll be wrong to assume that such crimes are never harmful and somehow safe to consider. In fact, they can be more devastating for society if not halted.
That’s the reason many victimless crimes are not only illegal in many parts of the world, but also are banned outrightly
To better understand victimless crimes, here are a few examples of such offensive acts:
- Public nudity and drunkenness
- Recreational drug use
- Assisted suicide
- Possessing contraband or drugs
- Smoking marijuana publicly
You can see these are the acts that do not involve anyone else other than the perpetrator himself. If you are over-speeding on a road where you have to lay below 70-80 MPH, you are throwing yourself under harm’s way as the minute a law enforcement officer catches you overspeeding, he’ll hand over an auto-citation ticket to you.
Similarly, if you make up such a scenario behind every abovementioned offense while keeping the law of your land in mind, you will eventually learn what is a victimless crime and why you should know about it.
What is a victimless crime example?
A victimless crime is an offensive act that is carried out by an individual or two consenting parties for the sole purpose of pleasure. It’s a self-centered crime and doesn’t harm the general public or the third party except for potential harm to those involved in the act.
You might be asking, “Ok, now I know what is a victimless crime, but what is a victimless crime example?
If that sounds like you, here’s the answer to allay your curiosity.
We know you must have, at some stage in your life, played poker or any other game while trying hands-on gambling. And sometimes, it’s good. But here’s the bitter fact to spoil your day; it’s ILLEGAL.
Well, except if you are in Las Vegas – the State of Nevada declared gambling legal some 85 years before.
But beware if you are in Utah or Hawaii; these two US states have adopted a zero-tolerance policy for gambling inside their borders. It’s unlike other states where gambling prevails as a legal game, in one form or the other.
The real question here is: how on earth gambling is a victimless crime?
The answer is complicated. Because many countries, including the US, haven’t criminalized gambling. The parts of the world where it is criminalized believe gambling to be unethical and against religious teachings. But irrespective of what people from diverse backgrounds believe, gambling is considered a victimless crime because it’s addictive and not without the risk of bankrupting you on your bad day – when you win, it’s all good, but when you lose, money isn’t the only thing you lose. Your mental peace also goes on a bet, which is especially dangerous for the people who are prone to anger and impatient, eager to win. Who doesn’t like to lose. They might even turn violent, eventually hurting themselves or resorting to alcohol or substance abuse to get over the disappointment.
It might (or might not) be surprising for you to know that homelessness is criminalized in many states of the US. The only difference is that some states have less severe laws against homelessness and some have more egregious. Hence, it’s also counted as a victimless crime.
It is pertinent to mention that homelessness is a broader term and there’s no specific law that names ‘homelessness’ as a crime. However, different states have introduced laws against actions that pertain to homelessness. These actions are as follows:
- Food sharing
- Sleeping in public
- Staying in car
- Consume alcohol in public
Homelessness is one of the concerning issues in the US as well as other parts of the world and needs to be addressed holistically rather than criminalizing already vulnerable people.
Unfortunately, countries around the world are observing a spike in beggary as poverty is constantly expanding its grip and more and more people are being rolled under the poverty line. Beggary is a multi-faceted social problem that needs a comprehensive strategy to be eradicated… and criminalizing might not be the one.
Yet, it is. Though the US court of law has upheld the right to beg under the free speech provisions in the First Amendment, begging has been declared illegal in the United Kingdom as well as in different states of India. Moreover, beggary is also considered a victimless crime because it not only nullifies the dignity of an individual but also brings disgrace to the overall image of society.
Public nudity and drunkenness
Public nudity is discouraged around the world due to varying factors. First, it’s unethical and a below-the-belt practice. Second, it goes against the religious values of the masses. Third, it does not bode well for the very person committing the act. It’s considered a symptom of mental illness as well, but more than that and more than personal disgrace, it can have dire consequences for society as a whole if left unaddressed. That is why it also comes under the list of victimless crimes.
Similarly, public drunkenness shows the person in a bad light and leaves an enormously negative impact on the life of that person. It brings shame to the name of the person and also causes public embarrassment. Further, it is criminalized as well in almost every country.
Non-consensual sex is a crime in almost every part of the world. However, the case is different for prostitution. While many countries have legalized it, there are some, where it’s considered immoral and unethical and has been banned outrightly, including in the US, except in Las Vegas.
Prostitution comes under the umbrella of victimless crime as it is a consensual act of physical engagement that is harmless for society and is based on a contract; especially money. Though many have argued that it must not be criminalized in any way as sex workers have their rights as well and criminalizing prostitution only results in the extending assault and exploitation of sex workers. As the law criminalizes sex work, many workers fear opening up about the ceaseless misery of their lives.
Therefore, it’s a bit complicated to paint prostitution as a victimless crime, but provided that the consent exists between the people getting involved in this act, it is safe to assume that it doesn’t harm society at large and hence, can be included in the list of victimless crimes.
Recreational drug use
Recreational drugs are specifically used for their psychoactive effects on the body and feel-good element. But though It is a fact that the recreational drugs, that include cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, etc., do have some power to alter the mood, their positive effect is only transient and in the long run, puts a negative impact on the overall health of the person using these drugs. It makes people addicts and paves way for substance abuse.
In contemporary times, the general perceptions around marijuana and other recreational drugs have observed a significant trajectory and a number of countries have decriminalized the production of marijuana. Moreover, pharmaceutical companies have also been allowed to reap the positive benefits of marijuana and use them for medical science. But no matter how much normalization is introduced, the fact remains that the use of recreational drugs without any expert medical supervision is illegal and comes under the umbrella of victimless crimes.
There has now been an increase in the countries that legalize assisted suicide. Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, and part of the US and Australia have decriminalized medical assistance in dying a.k.a assisted suicide. However, it has been allowed only under certain circumstances. In the rest of the world, assisted suicide is a victimless crime and in some cases, the facilitator of the suicide can also be prosecuted.
Contrabands are goods that are illegal to possess under normal circumstances and could be very dangerous if they get into the wrong hands. These include alcohol, homemade weapons, communication devices, tattoo equipment, knives, nail cutters, and other items. However, possessing contraband can be declared a crime under special circumstances. For instance, you cannot possess any of the above-mentioned items in prison, but you can buy any licensed weapon in a fair or legal way and keep it for your safety.
Trespassing is usually a harmless practice as it doesn’t necessarily put anyone in danger. But it does put trespassers in trouble because of violating someone’s right to privacy. Sometimes, trespassing is unintentional as well and could be forgiven as an honest mistake. However, in other cases, it will be deemed as a victimless crime.
Smoking marijuana publically
The medical world might be embracing marijuana as an effective recreational drug, but smoking it publically is still a crime. Many countries have introduced laws and minor punishments for this offense as well. Marijuana addiction is dangerous for health and for that reason, is banned in most countries.
Overspeeding is an unacceptable practice in every situation, unless you are on a designated racing course. It is an act deliberately committed by the driver himself and can be charged with a traffic citation if caught by a traffic police officer.
Just as public nudity is a legally declared crime in some parts of the world and is painted as an indecent and immoral practice that goes against community standards, pornography is a serious issue in different countries and in multiple schools of thought. It’s unethical because it doesn’t fit into the standards of any society and is banned in more than half of the world. It brings humiliation and disgrace to people who get into the industry. Their public life becomes hell. Pornography also deeply negatively impacts society and infuses many misconceptions about sex, romance, and intimacy. However, since porn is filmed with the consent of actors, it cannot be counted as a serious crime. In this context, victimless crime is the best fit for pornography.
There can be many other victimless crimes as well. The motive behind providing these short descriptions of some victimless crimes was to give you an idea of what exactly is a victimless crime. To succinctly put, a victimless crime is an act that goes against general standards of society, and rules and regulations of states/countries but is harmless for the public at large except for the people involved in the act. Hope now you know what is a victimless crime and what is a victimless crime example
Why are victimless crimes illegal?
Let’s imagine one or two things, shall we? We have mentioned a total of 12 victimless crimes above, each with a short description. Let’s take only one of them and concoct a possible scenario if that particular crime is legalized. This way we’ll know why victimless crimes are illegal and why they should remain so.
Let’s start with trespassing.
Suppose in an alternate universe, trespassing is declared legal. Governments around the world have allowed trespassing and announced that there will be no charge for this act. Police have removed the barriers and barbed wires from places to keep trespassers away. The right to privacy has been completely nullified as far as trespassing is concerned.
As a consequence, loitering has emerged as a new normal. People can be seen partying in a neighbor’s backyard without permission. Many have stormed the big mansions and are now setting tents, sunbathing, and playing songs, while the owner is struggling to understand what to do. Foes have got a perfect opportunity to rush into the house of their adversaries and exchange threats while brawling. Private property is now just an old terminology that only exists on paper. In reality, now that trespassing isn’t really a crime, anyone can jump into the nominal private property and do whatever they deem fit.
Similarly, just imagine the repercussions if the acts like overspeeding, pornography, homelessness, beggary, or assisted suicide are decriminalized and normalized in society
A chaotic situation it will create, right? It will create a law and order situation, rendering the state machinery unable to run the wheel of affairs. Laws are there to regulate daily life by drawing boundaries between what is allowed and what is not, making the environment conducive for everyone.
Acts like trespassing or others aforementioned are declared illegal because they will inevitably create an unproductive climate that will halt the advancement of any country. Not only this, but it will also destroy the personal dignity and image of the person committing the act.
So next time if someone asks you why are victimless crimes illegal, you can tell them it’s for the common good of everyone.
Victimless crime cases
The victimless crime cases, though not substantially intense in nature, happen frequently around the world. Overspeeding and prostitution are the most common among them while assisted suicide is rare of all other crimes.
The number of traffic citations per year in the United States stands at astonishingly 43M while in the United Kingdom, 2M speeding tickets were issued in a year. The world’s second-most populous country, India, also recorded 1M traffic violations last year. In the rest of the world, the number is more or less the same when it comes to overspeeding.
The victimless crime cases of prostitution are ubiquitous, even in the countries where this business is banned outrightly. In fact, prostitution is also sometimes connected with a long network of human trafficking that exists worldwide. Vulnerable teenage girls belonging to lower-middle-class families are abducted from their cities/towns/villages and sold to pimps at the prostitution centers in different countries. It then starts a totally different, grueling life for these girls as subsequently, they have to sell their bodies in order to earn money to survive.
Though prostitution is legal in some parts of the world, sex workers are often subjected to discrimination, humiliation, and slandering. In countries, where it is illegal, prostitution functions underground, and is usually raided by law authorities, resulting in the closure of the business and apprehension of sex workers and others.
Assisted suicide, on the other side, is one of the most hotly debated topics as well as an emerging phenomenon across the world. Suicides are unfortunately common in the world and a spike was observed in such cases during the lockdowns in the wake of the covid-19 outbreak. However, voluntarily death it might be, suicide is illegal in some parts of the world and is largely discouraged.
As an alternative, assisted suicide is introduced as death under the supervision of an expert. But these voluntary deaths are regulated under strict circumstances and are mainly available for those who are going through a fatal disease that has no chance to be treated; dementia being the case in point. For an assisted death to take place, conditions like parental approval, the patient’s consent, and the sound mental state of the patient are imperative. Otherwise, it will be equal to killing someone.
Nevertheless, the reports have it that assisted suicides are being carried out illegally in not only the countries where it is banned but also in the countries which allow death by choice by not following the due procedure. For example, in Belgium, for assisted suicide to be carried out, the person needs to be terminally ill and suffering from unbearable pain. However, there have been cases recently where people have been given a lethal dose to end their life on the pretext of stress stemming from a broken relationship. It’s illegal and constitutes a crime that may result in a long-term jail sentence.
The other victimless crime cases of beggary, pornography, public nudity and drunkenness, and others are occurring almost every second around the world. The porn industry is one of the most profitable industries at present since access to such content is freely available almost everywhere. The governments are still fighting poverty and the challenges it brings with itself. And in this bleak backdrop, the victimless crimes cases are still at large everywhere in the world.
List of victimless crimes
The victimless crimes are dissected in detail above in the article. But to summarize what crimes do we talk about when we say victimless crime, here’s the list of victimless crimes that we have discussed so far:
- Public nudity and drunkenness
- Recreational drug use
- Assisted suicide
- Possessing contraband or drugs
- Smoking marijuana publicly
However, this list is ever-expanding given the diverse scope of victimless crimes. Any act that may be self-harming, immoral or unethical in nature for a particular society is a victimless crime. Take, for instance, homosexuality. While the countries in the West of the globe are legalizing gay marriages, it remains strongly opposed in many parts of the world and is condemned as immoral, irreligious, unethical, and unnatural.
What are victimless crimes and why are they controversial?
Victimless crimes are those voluntary, consensual acts by an individual that include the elements of self-harming, insulting, and humiliation, and might negatively impact society. They paint the entire city or country in a bad picture and are destructive to civility. However, a victimless crime is not harmful to the general public as it only includes the perpetrator or two or more than two consenting parties who are carrying out the act.
But, here’s the rub: are victimless crimes really victimless? And suppose if it is not, can we call it a crime?
In the academics of criminology and law, these two questions have been hotly debated. Those who believe that all crimes, irrespective of their nature and the level of intensity, always have a victim, and there’s no such thing as victimless crimes. They argue that prostitution is the result of ceaseless, illegal human trafficking and is the sex workers who brunt all the bear of painful and miserable life as a prostitute. Hence, he or she is a victim in this case and must be rescued from this web.
Furthermore, they also argue that beggary is the outcome of bad governance and unbridled capitalism that is continuously rendering the working classes poorer while the elite is getting richer with every passing minute.
Gambling, according to them, is the favorite medium of elitists to earn money in minutes in an illegal way and clean it through money laundering. Rich people have tons of money that they are never on the losing side; if you want to see who loses, have a look at the employees who work at a casino and ask them about their financial conditions and how they are surviving their days with the all-time high inflation rate and fuel prices going through the roof.
Homeless people are also victims of callousness on part of the government which doesn’t invest in structuring nursery homes for such people. Whatever the crime is, it’s directly or indirectly connected to poverty. Yet, the critics of the ‘victimless crime’ say that the government rarely focuses on laws that can eliminate poverty and support social welfare, especially of beggars, homeless people, prostitutes, drug addicts, and other vulnerable groups.
That is why such people believe that there is nothing like a ‘victimless crime’ as there’s always a victim in a crime, even on an individual level.
These arguments are not without weight. Considering there’s no set definition of victimless crime, everyone has formed their own. To get to the center of the argument and form a universal definition, there’s a need to thoroughly discuss the idea of a victimless crime. Until then, it will remain a controversial issue.
How does victimless crime affect society?
Victimless crimes, if left unchecked, can be destructive to society. Though these crimes are usually not harmful to the general public, they have the potential of spreading drugs, hatred, and other things that should be contained.
Public marijuana smoking is considered a victimless crime and it is treated so. The reason is simple: if smoking marijuana in public gets any level of normalization in society, it will be devastating, especially for youngsters who are more prone to fall for marijuana to find temporary solace. Although it is true that marijuana might provide them with the peaceful moments they want, in the long run, its negative impacts can destroy one’s life completely.
Similarly, be it prostitution, over speeding, or any other victimless crime, they can only make the matters worse for society if not addressed timely and holistically.
Victimless crimes are being hotly debated for their definition, scope, and if such a term can exist at all or not. However, irrespective of the debate, it is true that the crimes that are perceived to be victimless need to be specially focused on and addressed separately from other crimes. Such crimes may not be harmful as they never include an instant casualty, but in the long run, they might act as a catalyst for the casualty of civility from society.
Moreover, such crimes are always a price to pay for an individual. These are not bereft of any danger at all for an individual. Visiting prostitution can end up infecting a person with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), while on the other side, consuming limitless alcohol can result in organ failure, including heart attack. None of these are easy to take and must be nipped in the bud to save the entire world from chaos because, as it is said, one fish can spoil the entire pond.