Monday, August 2, 2010


The mere fact that there is an act which complies with the definitional elements does not mean that the person who performs the act is liable for the particular crime. Satisfying the definitional elements is not the only general requirement for liability. The next step in the determination of liability is to enquire whether the act which complies with the definitional elements is also unlawful.

An act which complies with the definitional elements is not necessarily unlawful. This will immediately become clear if one considers the following example:
The definitional elements of murder: Nevertheless a person is not guilty if he/she kills somebody in self-defense; the act is then justified and therefore not unlawful.

It is a common phenomenon that an act which presumably falls within the letter of the law (in other words, which corresponds to the definitional element) proves upon closer scrutiny not to be contrary to the law as The Law tolerates the violation of the legal norm, because the law does not consist merely of commands and prohibitions contained in the definitional elements but also of rules or criteria which is contrary to such command or prohibition. An act is unlawful if it is in conflict with the rules or criteria of the legal order as a whole, and not merely with the particular definitional elements.

In Criminal Law the definition of a crime normally comprises of the following introduction “…the unlawful and intentional…” It is clearly defined in the act that a certain transgression is punishable due to the action of a perpetrator.

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