Home Law Defining Crime: A Critique of the Concept and Its Implication
In this chapter we have examined a number of reasons the criminal- law definition of crime lacks scientific objectivity. These reasons include the following:
These are significant definitional, outcome, and process issues that challenge the idea that the criminal law is an objective construct and a measure of crime. These criticisms suggest that the criminal law is a poor starting point for a definition of crime and an insufficient basis for grounding criminology.
To this point, none of these criticisms has been specifically stated in ways that limit their application to microlevel criminology and tests of microlevel explanations of crime. We can find some microlevel studies that address some of these concerns. These kinds of studies would include research performed by Sally Simpson and Nicole Piquero (2002; Piquero, Exum, and Simpson 2005; Piquero, Tibbets, and Blankenship 2005) that examine the individual-level causes of corporate and white-collar crime. It is no accident that white-collar and corporate crime researchers address these issues. Researchers in these areas are well acquainted with the criticism of the criminal-law definition of crime and hence make the effort to address at least some of the concerns associated with the criminal- law definition of crime.
In this chapter, we have demonstrated that there are empirical conditions that threaten the validity of tests of explanations of crime based on the criminal-law definition of crime. While we have detailed some of these objections, we will elaborate upon these issues with respect to the definition of criminal law in the next two chapters.
It is our goal to point out that there needs to be an objective measure of crime that separates the criminal-law definition of crime from the criminological concept. The absence of independence between the concept and measurement of crime constitute a classic threat to the validity of the orthodox concept of crime typically employed by criminologists.
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