Sociology Index

Victimless Crime

Victimless crime is consensual crime in nature, whether there is actually a victim is debatable. Victimless crime are those that are of the nature of illegal gambling, drug use, and selling sex. Victimless crime occurs where the victim does not experience harm, but is indeed a willing participant. Victimless crime refers to crime that doesn't directly harm the person or property of another. Victimless crimes may be considered offenses against the state rather than society.

Conventional Crime implies that there is a victim of the criminal behavior who experiences harm. Victimless crimes are established for social control over morality and other social relationship and are attributed mostly to low class culture. Victimless crime includes criminal or illegal acts in which all participants are consenting adults.

It is easier and more acceptable for upper class people with deviant behavior to engage in victimless crimes. 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.

Victimless crimes are criminal only because politically powerful people or groups find them undesirable or offensive. Conflict perspectives hold that victimless crimes are criminal only because politically powerful people or groups find them undesirable or offensive. Functionalist explanation holds that social need, not social power, underlies the labeling of victimless behaviors as criminals under labeling theory.

Examples Of Victimless Crimes

There are very many examples of victimless crimes and willing participants. Examples of victimless crimes include sex crimes, drug use, illegal gambling, sports such as cock fighting. There is an absence of restrictions against elite deviance. The small amount of street crime keeps the focus off of elite deviance. The classic definition of victimless crime assumes, "There is never a victim" in sex crimes, drug use, etc. A re-examination of consent indicates that people consent under pressure. Victimless crime often does have a victim, but at some level, the harm is self-inflicted. Certain status offense which may include consumption of alcohol, truancy, and running away from home are also victimless crimes.

Jurisdiction Over Victimless Crimes

The question of jurisdiction over victimless crimes by non-Indians received considerable attention in the Department following the Supreme Court's holding in Oliphant v. Suquamish Tribe, 435 U.S. 191 (1978), that tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over non-Indians.

The Office of Legal Counsel prepared an extensive memorandum dated March 21, 1979, concluding that in most cases, the states have jurisdiction over victimless crimes by non-Indians. The conclusion of Office of Legal Counsel is that in the absence of a true victim, United States v. McBratney, 104 U.S. 621 (1882), would control, leaving the states with jurisdiction.

Most traffic violations, most routine cases of disorderly conduct, and most offenses against morals such as gambling, which are not designed for the protection of a particular vulnerable class, should be viewed as having no real "victim" and therefore to fall exclusively within state competence. A more direct threat to Indian persons or property may be sufficient to bring an ordinarily "victimless" crime within federal jurisdiction. One example would be crimes calculated to obstruct or corrupt the functioning of tribal government.



Women as Victims in “Victimless Crimes” The Case of Prostitution - Susan A. Lentz, B. Grant Stitt.
Abstract: It is argued by many criminologists that numerous acts which fall under the category of crimes labeled “victimless” do so because no harm comes to those involved. However, many feminists and others argue that where women are involved, “victimization” does in fact occur. Further, the resulting victimization from many of these acts reaches far beyond the individual participants in the consensual transaction. This analysis critically examines the issue of who or whom are the victims, if any, in prostitution. This discussion focuses on both the concerns of criminology and liberal and radical feminists.


Blackmail as a Victimless Crime: Reply to Altman - WALTER E. BLOCK, ROBERT W. MCGEE. 
Abstract: The authors maintain that since it is legal to gossip, it should therefore not be against the law to threaten to gossip, unless paid off not to do so. In a word, blackmail is a victimless crime, and must be legalized, if justice is to be attained.


Are Victimless Crimes Actually Harmful? - Louis Veneziano, Carol Veneziano.
A victimless crime is an illegal act that is a consensual crime and lacks a complaining participant, including such activities as drug use, gambling and prostitution. No one is harmed, or if harm occurs, it is negated by the informed consent of willing participants. A questionnaire was administered in which 944 respondents were asked to rate how much harm. if any, exists for participants engaging in four traditional victimless crimes.


Software Piracy is not a victimless crime - Abstract: People, industries and economies are being affected as a direct result of the growing problem of software piracy. Is software piracy a victimless crime? Who the victims of software piracy are and how they are affected by it.


American Holocaust: The Price of Victimless Crime Laws - Tim O'Donnell.
American Holocaust provides a clear explanation of why victimless crime laws throughout the world are morally unjust because the laws violently uphold the ethnic, racial, moral and political opinions of the law-controlling majority. Victimless crime laws are used almost exclusively for morality control that is a politically correct way of describing religious persecution. The devastation that has been wrought by the victimless crime laws in the United States is detailed in American Holocaust.


This paper challenges the long held hypothesis that insider trading is a victimless crime.

Books on Victimless Crime

Victimless Crime?: Prostitution, Drugs, Homosexuality, and Abortion by Robert F. Meier, Gilbert Geis.

American Holocaust: The Price of Victimless Crime Laws by Tim O'Donnell (Author).

Reconsidering victimless crime.: An article from: Regulation - by George C. Leef

Victimless Crimes: Crime, Justice, Punishment (Crimes, Justice, and Punishment) - Justin Fernandez

No Price Too High: Victimless Crimes and the Ninth Amendment by Robert M. Hardaway

Insurance fraud is not a 'victimless' crime.(Editorial): An article from: National Underwriter Property & Casualty-Risk & Benefits Management.