A crime is a wrong committed by a person against society. A crime is different from a tort, or civil wrong. In a crime, society punishes the wrongdoer by some combination of imprisonment, fine, probation, and, in some cases, death. In a tort, the injured person usually recovers for his or her injuries by suing the wrongdoer and receiving a money judgment from the court.
An act committed by a wrongdoer can give rise to both a crime and tort. For example, if person A shoots person B in the leg, person A could both get arrested by the police for attempted murder and get sued by person B to recover the medical bills for treatment to his injured leg. Crimes exist to make society safer and to discourage people from committing certain acts. Torts exist to make the injured party whole again for injuries caused by the wrongdoer.
Criminal law defines the activities that we as a society want to punish and discourage. They range from local crimes, such as speeding and running a stop sign; to traditional state crimes, such as rape, murder and arson; to federal crimes, such as treason; to international crimes, such as genocide.
In this section, we'll look at the group of crimes that are known as white-collar crimes. They are called white-collar crimes because professionals or other white-collar workers usually commit them. These crimes are generally nonviolent, which once meant that the punishments were less severe, although a trend in the other direction began even before Enron and the other business scandals of the early 2000s.
Select any of the following areas of white-collar law for a more in-depth discussion (for information on crimes other than white-collar crimes, see