Victimless crime

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A victimless crime is an infraction of criminal law without any identifiable evidence of an individual that has suffered damage in the infraction. Typical examples include violations of laws concerning public decency or public order, and include the sale, possession, and use of illicit drugs, prostitution, trafficking in pornography, and gambling.[1] These laws are based on the offence principle, as opposed to laws based on the harm principle.

The term is not used in jurisprudence[citation needed], but is rather used to cast doubt onto the efficacy of existing and proposed legislation; or to highlight the unintended consequences of the same. In politics, for example, a lobbyist might use this word with the implication that the law in question should be abolished.

In a constitutional state, the legislature, a body in turn elected by the sovereign, defines criminal law. A crime (as opposed to a civil wrong or tort) is an infraction of a law, and will not always have an identifiable individual or group of individuals as its victims, but may also, for example, consist of the preparations that did not result in any damage (mens rea in the absence of actus reus), such as attempted murder, offenses against legal persons as opposed to individuals or natural persons, or directed against communal goods such as social order or a social contract or the state itself, as in tax avoidance and tax evasion, treason, or, in non-secular systems, the supernatural (infractions of religious law).

Victimless crimes are in the harm principle of John Stuart Mill, "victimless" from a position that considers the individual as the sole sovereign, to the exclusion of more abstract bodies such as a community or a state against which criminal offenses may be directed.[2]

In a democratic society, wide agreement on a given law as punishing a "victimless crime" will eventually lead to that law's abolishment, as has been the case with most laws regarding homosexuality or sodomy law, abolished in most democratic countries in the later 20th century. More limited are legalizations of assisted suicide (legal in Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Albania, Oregon and Washington) and cannabis use (see legality of cannabis by country).

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