Crime: Definition, Components, Prescription

Crime is a serious offense, which reflects very strong antisocial behavior. It is at the highest degree in the gravity scale of the offenses, which are the subject of a tripartite classification: crime, offense, contravention. The point now.

Crime: general notions

Crime: general notions

Definition of crime

In a general sense, crime is a particularly serious transgression, detrimental to order and security, contrary to accepted social values, repressed by conscience and punished by laws. It is synonymous with package.

In the technical sense of the term, crime is a kind of criminal offense , belonging to the category of the most serious of them (Article 111-1 of the Penal Code).

Examples : murder, rape, acts of torture and barbarism, kidnapping …

Jurisdiction of Crime

The determination of the crimes falls within the competence of the legislator, that is to say the Parliament. It is the same for offenses, while the contraventions are defined by regulation, that is to say by the executive (President of the Republic and Prime Minister in particular).


Elements of the crime

Elements of the crime

Each crime, like any criminal offense, has 3 constituent elements:

  • A legal element : the repressed behavior and its sanction must be provided by law (principle of the legality of offenses and penalties).
  • A material element : to exist, the offense must be materialized by an act, the mere fact of thinking of committing an offense is not repressed.
  • A moral element : it is the will of the perpetrator of the offense. If there are crimes that may be unintentional, in criminal matters a real intention on the part of the author is required. A crime can not be committed unintentionally.

Example : a murder is necessarily intentional. If the officer did not want the death of the victim, it may be manslaughter (without criminal intent), which falls under the category of misdemeanors.


Crime suppression

Crime suppression

Applicable penalties

As the most serious offense, the crime is punished with the most severe penalties.

The criminal penalties are, primarily, criminal imprisonment (known as “criminal detention” for political crimes), in some cases accompanied by a fine and additional penalties, in addition to the main sentence.

Example : the order of care is a supplementary sentence that can be added to the sentence of criminal imprisonment.

Good to know : in tort, we do not speak of “seclusion” but of “imprisonment”. Sentences of deprivation of liberty are prohibited in contravenal matters.

Criminal penalty system

Criminal confinement (or detention) may be in perpetuity or on time (10 to 30 years).

For some particularly heinous crimes, a period of irrepressible security can be pronounced. The security period is the length of time during which the convicted person can not be sentenced (such as a day parole or parole).

Criminal attempt

The attempt is always punishable in criminal cases, whereas it is only in cases expressly provided for by the law in criminal matters (Article 121-4 of the Penal Code).


Crime: prescription of public action

Crime: prescription of public action

The gravity of the criminal act led the legislator to provide for a much longer period of prescription of public action than in the case of a crime or contravention.

This period is 20 years in criminal cases, while it is only 6 years in tort and 1 year in contraventional matters.

Good to know : the limitation period of the public action is the period beyond which no further prosecution can be brought against the alleged offender.


Crime: Judgment of the perpetrators of criminal offenses

Crime: Judgment of the perpetrators of criminal offenses

The perpetrator of a criminal offense will be tried before a court. An appeal against the decision of the Court can be made and the case will be tried again in another Court.

Good to know : the Court is a court composed of 3 professional judges who sit alongside a popular jury consisting of 6 citizens called “jurors” (they are 9 on appeal). The Court also includes a representative of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

To know more :

  • Article 222-17 of the Penal Code punishes the threat of committing a crime or offense against the person. Download our free letter template to use to file a complaint.
  • Anyone seeking to incite children to commit a crime or offense is liable to the penalties provided for in article 227-21 of the Penal Code. Use our letter template, which can be downloaded for free, to file a complaint.
  • Focus on the Court.