6.26.2011

How Does the Criminal Justice System Classify a Crime? A Glimpse into Prostitution, First Degree Murder, and Forgery



by Elizabeth Hall
Introduction
The United States criminal justice system classifies crimes in several categories.  In order to classify a crime, the requirements that a crime has been committed must have been met.  The requirements for an action to be classified as a crime in our justice system, Lippmann (2007), holds that there must be two elements, the mens rea or criminal intent, and the actus reus which means the criminal action.  The main three categories are crimes against public order, property, and against persons.  From these categories we will glimpse into details of the public order crime of prostitution, the crime against property that forgery entails, and the crime against persons that involves first-degree murder.  In looking over these examples, one will be able to understand how the United States criminal justice system classifies crimes in order to prosecute and convict criminals.

Classification of a Crime
The criminal justice system further classifies these crimes into classifications of offense based on the seriousness of the offense according to FindLaw (2011). Crimes are generally classified as felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions or violations.  The Kentucky Revised Statutes (n.d.) with which we will be using in the discussion of these crimes classifies crimes in this manner:
431.060   Felonies, misdemeanors and violations defined.
Offenses are either felonies, misdemeanors, or violations:
(1) Offenses punishable by death or confinement in the penitentiary, whether or not a
fine or other penalty may also be assessed, are felonies.
(2) Offenses punishable by confinement other than in the penitentiary, whether or not a
fine or other penalty may also be assessed, are misdemeanors.
(3) Offenses punishable by a fine only or by any other penalty not cited herein, whether
in combination with a fine or not, are violations.
Effective: July 1, 1980 (Kentucky Revised Statutes, n.d.)
History: Amended 1980 Ky. Acts ch. 309, sec. 3, effective July 1, 1980.  -- Recodified
1942 Ky. Acts ch. 208, sec. 1, effective October 1, 1942, from Ky. Stat. sec. 1127.
Felonies are further classified in order to provide standard sentencing guidelines into five categories, capital offenses, Class A felonies, Class B felonies, Class C felonies, and Class D felonies.  This statute reads:
532.010   Classification of offenses.
Felonies are classified, for the purpose of sentencing, into five categories:
(1) Capital offenses;
(2) Class A felonies;
(3) Class B felonies;
(4) Class C felonies; and
(5) Class D felonies.
Effective: January 1, 1975
History: Created 1974 Ky. Acts ch. 406, sec. 273, effective January 1, 1975.
There is one other statute that deals with classifications and generalities of sentencing in Kentucky’s Revised Statutes which provides general instruction for sentencing in the courtroom, and is stated as follows:
532.030   Authorized dispositions -- Generally -- Instructions by judge.
(1) When a person is convicted of a capital offense, he shall have his punishment fixed
at death, or at a term of imprisonment for life without benefit of probation or parole,
or at a term of imprisonment for life without benefit of probation or parole until he
has served a minimum of twenty-five (25) years of his sentence, or to a sentence of
life, or to a term of not less than twenty (20) years nor more than fifty (50) years.
(2) When a person is convicted of a Class A felony, he shall have his punishment fixed
at imprisonment in accordance with KRS 532.060.
(3) When a person is convicted of an offense other than a capital offense or Class A
felony, he shall have his punishment fixed at:
(a) A term of imprisonment authorized by this chapter; or
(b) A fine authorized by KRS Chapter 534; or
(c) Both imprisonment and a fine unless precluded by the provisions of KRS
Chapter 534.
(4) In all cases in which the death penalty may be authorized the judge shall instruct the
jury in accordance with subsection (1) of this section. The instructions shall state,
subject to the aggravating and mitigating limitations and requirements of KRS
532.025, that the jury may recommend upon a conviction for a capital offense a
sentence of death, or at a term of imprisonment for life without benefit of probation
or parole, or a term of imprisonment for life without benefit of probation or parole
until the defendant has served a minimum of twenty-five (25) years of his sentence,
or a sentence of life, or to a term of not less than twenty (20) years nor more than
fifty (50) years.
Effective: July 15, 1998
History: Amended 1998 Ky. Acts ch. 606, sec. 71, effective July 15, 1998. -- Amended
1984 Ky. Acts ch. 110, sec. 2, effective July 13, 1984.  --Amended 1976 (1st Extra.
Sess.) Ky. Acts ch. 15, sec. 3, effective December 22, 1976.  -- Created 1974 Ky.
Acts ch. 406, sec. 275, effective January 1, 1975.
While all states have their own written statutes, these are the rules that everyone in the Kentucky criminal justice system must adhere to when a crime is committed and the perpetrator is caught and brought forth into the court system.  Each category to follow within crimes against public order, property, and persons also has further guidelines within the justice system.

Crimes against Public Order and Morality
Offenses listed as crimes against public order and morality entail crimes that involve public disturbances, annoyances, and threaten to create a rift in the “peace and tranquility” of communities along with offending the public’s general sense of morality, notes Lippmann (2007).  These crimes are listed to protect the average citizen in public areas from harassment, threats, harm, and indecency. These crimes range from disorderly conduct, riot, public indecencies, and crimes against morality, such as prostitution to vagrancy and panhandling, which, are considered public indecencies and even include the governing of gang activities.  There is a growing movement to readdress victimless crimes such as prostitution, the use of narcotics, gambling, and various sexual crimes, claiming that this is an overextension of the criminal law, but others do not see these crimes as victimless notes Lippmann (2007).  They contend that while one person resorting to these activities might not change society, however if many people participate in these activities then the moral fiber of our society will completely unravel, leading to larger problems. 
Prostitution
Prostitution is one of the crimes considered victimless to some.  They contend that because all parties consent to the act that that it should not be considered a crime at all.  Lippmann (2007) defines prostitution as the act of participating in sexual activities for the explicit purpose of gaining money, services, or any other item of value.  The Kentucky Revised Statutes (n.d.) defines it in much the same way:
529.020   Prostitution.
(1) A person is guilty of prostitution when he engages or agrees or offers to engage in
sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.
(2) Prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor.
Effective: January 1, 1975
History: Created 1974 Ky. Acts ch. 406, sec. 251, effective January 1, 1975.

529.060   Corroboration.
(1) No person shall be convicted of prostitution solely on the uncorroborated testimony
of a patron.
(2) No person shall be convicted of promoting prostitution solely on the uncorroborated
testimony of a person whose prostitution activity he is alleged to have advanced or
from whose prostitution activity he is alleged to have profited.
Effective: January 1, 1975
History: Created 1974 Ky. Acts ch. 406, sec. 255, effective January 1, 1975.
529.080   Loitering for prostitution purposes.
(1) A person is guilty of loitering for prostitution purposes when he loiters or remains
in a public place for the purpose of engaging or agreeing or offering to engage in
prostitution.
(2) Loitering for prostitution purposes is a:
(a) Violation for the first offense;
(b) Class B misdemeanor for the second offense and for each subsequent offense.
Effective: July 13, 1984
History: Created 1984 Ky. Acts ch. 102, sec. 1, effective July 13, 1984.
           As you can see, just the act of prostitution itself has several statutes that are listed, and the list gets longer if you add the pimps and johns into the mix.  The elements of the crime of prostitution consist of the sexual act itself, and the intent to gain money goods or services from the act.  This clearly defines the mens rea or guilty mind, as the intent to offer sexual favors for money.  The actus reus is clearly defined in the performance of the act according to Allyn & Bacon (2008). 
This crime is considered a crime against public order and morality for several reasons states Lippmann (2007).  The first reason for this is the transmission of diseases, since prostitutes can contract a sexually transmitted disease from one solicitor, and then pass it on to any other johns she does business with.  With the incurable and devastating diseases that are now circulating our population such as HIV, herpes, and Aids, if we as a society condoned prostitution these diseases would spread faster and create a public health emergency.  The second reason is what the use of prostitutes does to the nature of our families and the devastation it can cause to them.  The third reason is that by the nature of the business it exploits and demeans women, and hinders perception of equality in our society.  The final reason that Lippmann (2007) gives is that it promotes immorality in society, which paves the way for other vices such as alcoholism, gambling, and illegal drug use by promoting tolerance to immorality. 
Example of Prostitution
Cara waits on the corner of Seventh and Limestone Street, along with several other girls looking to advance their budgets.  She is nervous because unlike the other girls, she operates alone with no protection from a pimp, as some do.  She has only been at this for a couple of months and already, she has been arrested twice, and beaten severely by a john once.  Unfortunately, she has been unable to find a job, so she feels like she has no other alternatives.  She was thinking about this as a car pulled up in front of her and the driver asks her if she is looking for a date.
 She replies, “sure, what kind of date are you looking for”.  The john replies that he is looking for fellatio, and inquires about the cost.  Cara wastes no time in replying that it would be fifteen dollars and jumps in the car. “Cash up front” she tells him and he gives her fifteen dollars.  They drive around the corner to a spot that she knows is secluded and she performs fellatio on the john. 
This example became a crime of prostitution as soon as the act was complete.  This is because this particular crime’s elements entail the exchange of money or goods for the act itself, so until Cara completed the act of fellatio, there was no actual crime committed on her part.  If the john had been a an officer conducting stings, she would have been charged with two Class B misdemeanors in the state of Kentucky, one for loitering for the purpose of prostitution and one for the act of prostitution itself.
Crimes against Property
Buckler (2011), holds, that crime against property includes such offenses as auto theft, burglary, general theft, computer crimes, embezzlement, and forgery.  These offenses are listed as crimes because they protect the general public against the threat of losing personal property.  The right to own and possess personal property is a right given to our people by the Fifth Amendment, which states that it is illegal to take anyone’s personal property without due process.  This right not only covers any criminal element in our society that might take our personal property, but prohibits the government from doing so as well.  It is Lippmann’s (2007) position that the one of the primary functions of a government is the prevention, prosecution, and conviction of anyone taking another person’s personal property.
Forgery in the Second Degree
Lippmann defines forgery as the creation or modification of any document used for legal purposes with the intent to defraud, deceive, swindle, or mislead another person or entity.  The state of Kentucky defines forgery in the second degree as:
516.030   Forgery in the second degree.
(1) A person is guilty of forgery in the second degree when, with intent to defraud,
deceive or injure another, he falsely makes, completes or alters a written instrument
which is or purports to be or which is calculated to become or to represent when
completed:
(a) A deed, will, codicil, contract, assignment, commercial instrument, credit card
or other instrument which does or may evidence, create, transfer, terminate or
otherwise affect a legal right, interest, obligation or status; or
(b) A public record or an instrument filed or required or authorized by law to be
filed in or with a public office or public employee; or
(c) A written instrument officially issued or created by a public office, public
employee or governmental agency.
(2) Forgery in the second degree is a Class D felony.
Effective: January 1, 1975
History: 1974 Ky. Acts ch. 406, sec. 134, effective January 1, 1975.
Forgery is limited to documents and items that have significant legal importance, such as wills, credit cards, validation cards such as proof of insurance, and various other legal forms.  The crime of forgery is complete when the document is drafted, whether it is used or not.  In the state of Kentucky, possession of a forged document is another charge by itself as stated here:
516.060   Criminal possession of forged instrument in the second degree.
(1) A person is guilty of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second
degree when, with knowledge that it is forged and with intent to defraud, deceive or
injure another, he utters or possesses any forged instrument of a kind specified in
KRS 516.030.
(2) Criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree is a Class D felony.
Effective: January 1, 1975
History: Created 1974 Ky. Acts ch. 406, sec. 137, effective January 1, 1975.
Should anyone use a forged document, they would then be guilty of uttering, which Lippmann (2007), defines as the circulation or use of a forged document.  The mens rea of forgery is the intent to defraud which does not need to be directed at any specific individual.  The actus reus is the making of a document, or the falsifying a material fact on an existing document.  The elements of forgery require the creation or manipulation of a legal document along with an intent to defraud.
Example of Forgery
Kevin is a smart computer savvy young adult.  He recently noticed that his car insurance was expired and it is illegal to drive in the state of Kentucky without proof of insurance.  Since these days insurance companies send you information electronically if you wish, he had a file with his card information in it.  He decided that it would be pretty easy to just manipulate the dates on the card, and print himself out one that looked valid.  It took him about an hour, but he finally got one that looked acceptable.
He hit print, waited for the printout, and cut the form out about the size of a credit card.  Then to make it look more official, he laminated it, and put the forged card in his wallet.  He then decided to go for a drive.  Kevin is guilty of forgery and possession of a forged instrument, which in the state of Kentucky denotes that if caught he would face two class D felony charges.  If he presented the card to law enforcement, he would also be charged with uttering.
Crimes against Persons
According to Lippmann (2007), crimes against persons are the most serious of all criminal offenses.  They include crimes such as sexual assault, rape, assault and battery, and kidnapping and false imprisonment.  Homicide is punishable by death, and is considered to be the most serious offense a person can commit.  Sexual crimes are the next serious crime, as they can cause serious harm to the victim in the form of physical pain, but also psychological trauma, which tends to have long lasting effects.  Rules designed to protect people from these crimes are designed to protect the life and body of individuals.
First Degree Murder
We will cover first-degree murder in our example, because this crime is the most serious of all of the crimes against person’s offenses.  The fact that death is irreversible and the sanctity of life is tantamount to our society makes this the most offensive offense one can commit.  Generally, first-degree murder requires premeditation, and that establishes the mens rea of this crime.  The actus reus of first-degree murder is the actual causing of the death.  Kentucky Revised Statutes defined first-degree murder like this:
 507.010   Definitions.
A person is guilty of criminal homicide when he causes the death of another human being
under circumstances which constitute murder, manslaughter in the first degree,
manslaughter in the second degree, or reckless homicide.
Effective: January 1, 1975
History: Created 1974 Ky. Acts ch. 406, sec. 60, effective January 1, 1975.

507.020   Murder.
(1) A person is guilty of murder when:
(a) With intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such
person or of a third person; except that in any prosecution a person shall not
be guilty under this subsection if he acted under the influence of extreme
emotional disturbance for which there was a reasonable explanation or excuse,
the reasonableness of which is to be determined from the viewpoint of a
person in the defendant's situation under the circumstances as the defendant
believed them to be.  However, nothing contained in this section shall
constitute a defense to a prosecution for or preclude a conviction of
manslaughter in the first degree or any other crime; or
(b) Including, but not limited to, the operation of a motor vehicle under
circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, he wantonly
engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person and
thereby causes the death of another person.
(2) Murder is a capital offense.
Effective: July 13, 1984
History: Amended 1984 Ky. Acts ch. 165, sec. 26, effective July 13, 1984.  -- Amended
1976 (1st Extra. Sess.) Ky. Acts ch. 15, sec. 1, effective December 22, 1976.  --
Amended 1976 Ky. Acts ch. 183, sec. 1.  -- Created 1974 Ky. Acts ch. 406, sec. 61,
effective January 1, 1975.
As you can see, in Kentucky, criminal homicide is defined as causing the death of another by murder, manslaughter in the first or second degree, and reckless homicide.  Anyone who commits murder in this state is subject to the death penalty, or at the very least, life in prison.  The specific elements of this crime are the premeditated, purposeful intent to end the life of another person, and the causation of the death of another.  There seems to be no distinction between degrees written explicitly in the penal code of Kentucky about murder.
Example of First-Degree Murder
John’s marriage to Gwen is failing.  He is convinced that she is having an affair, so he hires a private detective to follow her.  When he receives the report from the detective, he sees that he is absolutely right about the affair.  He begins to get angry, thinking that he would be better off is Gwen was dead.  Instead of confronting Gwen immediately, he keeps the information that he has been given to himself, while he formulates a plan.  Because the detective has been spying on Gwen, John is aware that they meet at the man’s house, every Tuesday and Thursday during the afternoon. 
John spends the next week getting a gun, and taking care of personal affairs because he might be caught.  When Tuesday rolled around again, he decided that today is the day.  He takes a late lunch, changes clothes, and gets his gun out of his briefcase, putting it in his jacket pocket.  He gets in his car, drives to the house, and enters through the back door.  John makes his way to the bedroom, opens the door, and shoots both of them, killing them instantly. He then gets in his car and drives away, stopping at a gas station to change his clothes again.  He goes back to work, and acts as if nothing has happened.  If caught, the ruling in Kentucky is that he committed a capital offense, punishable by death or life in prison.
Conclusion
The United States criminal justice system classifies crimes in several different categories and classifications.  The main three categories are crimes against property, persons, and public order.  Each of these crimes is punishable by different levels of sentences, based on the severity of the crime committed, and the damage caused to society.  The most severe category of crime is the one labeled crimes against persons.  This is because crimes against public order and the statutes that apply, police morality and decency, and crimes against property and the statues that apply, police personal property.  However, crimes against persons and the statutes that apply there, police the mental and bodily harm that people cause to each other.  This class of crime is the most serious because the sanctity of life in this country is the most important value that we cherish as a nation.  There should be definite differences in the duration, and penalty of punishment based on the level of harm caused in society by crime, because if all crime were punished with the same punishment, it would not directly point to how serious the crime you committed actually was.  For example, murder is irreversible, so it should carry a higher penalty than if you wrote a bad check, which can at least be made up for by repayment.  After looking at all the different levels of crime, it is easy to see why and how the criminal justice system classifies a crime.

References:
Allyn & Bacon, (2008).  Chapter 12: Crimes Against Public Morals.  Retrieved From:  https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.coplaw.com%2Ffiles%2FPublic_Morals_Narcotics_Alcohol_Special.ppt
Buckler, J. (2011).  Scottsdaleaz.gov: Crimes Against Property Section.  Retrieved From: http://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/Police/about/ISB/Investigative_Services_Division/Crimes_Against_Property_Section
FindLaw.  (2011). Criminal Offenses.  Retreived From:                http://criminal.findlaw.com/crimes/criminal-overview/criminal-offenses.html
FindLaw, (2011).  Forgery.  Retreived From http://criminal.findlaw.com/crimes/a-z/forgery.html
Kentucky Revised Statutes (n.d.).  431.060   Felonies, misdemeanors and violations defined.  Retreived From: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/431-00/060.PDF
Kentucky Revised Statutes (n.d.).  529.020   Prostitution.  Retreived From: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/529-00/020.PDF
Kentucky Revised Statutes (n.d.).  529.060   Corroboration.  Retreived From: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/529-00/060.PDF
Kentucky Revised Statutes (n.d.).  529.080   Loitering for Prostitution Purposes.  Retreived From: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/529-00/080.PDF
Kentucky Revised Statutes (n.d.).  532.010  Classification of offenses.  Retreived From: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/532-00/010.PDF
Kentucky Revised Statutes (n.d.).  532.030   Authorized dispositions -- Generally -- Instructions by judge.  Retreived From: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/KRS/532-00/030.PDF
Lippmann, M., (2007).  Contemporary Criminal Law: Concepts, Cases, and Controversies.
          Thousand Oaks. Sage Publications, Inc.







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