A crime is a public offense, so I would think that anything that constitutes a crime has some kind of influence on one or more persons or property, i.e. it changes the public universe in some negative way.

According to a recent CA Criminal Justice exam of mine, "A person may be guilty of a crime even where his or her act has no immediate effect upon the person or property of another." "Immediate" is not further defined. If this is true, what are some examples?

  • Define "immediate affect".
    – D M
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 4:36
  • Since this is a "list" question, the only way it can stay open is as a Community Wiki.
    – feetwet
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 12:57
  • "Immediate effect" would mean an effect that is immediate, @DM.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 13:16

3 Answers 3


Yes, and sometimes it even makes perfect sense that such an activity would be a crime.

For many crimes, attempting the crime is a crime. The attempt may have no actual effect on any person or property, but is still illegal.

According to 16 U.S. Code § 1538(a)(1)(C) it is illegal to kill an endangered species on the high seas. A whale in international waters cannot really be considered anyone's "property" (and since it's in international waters there can't even be some weird theory of it being the government's property) but it is still illegal.

18 U.S. Code § 700 purports to prohibit the desecration of a flag, although this was found unconstitutional.

18 U.S. Code § 708 makes it a crime to commercially use the coat of arms of the Swiss Confederation, for some reason. And 18 U.S. Code § 711a makes it a crime to use the slogan "Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute" for profit, except as authorized. (But maybe that sort of thing counts as intellectual property.)

18 U.S. Code § 342 makes it a crime to operate a passenger train under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This really only affects people and property if the train is driven improperly as a result; if you make it safely, you'd probably never even know. But the driver would still be facing up to 15 years in prison if he was caught doing that.

And finally, according to A Crime a Day on Twitter:

33 USC §1232(b), 33 CFR §401.101 & §401.94(a) make it a federal crime to violate the St. Lawrence Seaway regulations by not having a copy of the St. Lawrence Seaway regulations while you pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

  • Examples like the train and the seaway do affect people and property by increasing the risk to them. So maybe it depends how you define "affect"... Certainly most legal systems recognize the benefits of reducing certain risks, like automotive accidents, even if no-one is actually hurt in that particular instance.
    – user
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 15:04
  • 1
    @user If you know the regulations of the seaway, not having a copy of them physically on you does not directly affect anyone or anything. Yes, the law has a purpose, but it's not asking whether the law affects things, it's asking whether the act affects things, and there are cases where the act does not.
    – D M
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 16:11
  • @DM Killing endangered species on the high seas is an international relations issue (involving trade, religion and another country's laws, however they are determined. The Swiss flag is also an international issue (important dealings depend on Swiss neutrality). Offending another country can immediately affect US citizens.
    – kleinerde
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 20:45
  • @TQuile1948 I think it stretches the ordinary definition of "immediate affect" to say that doing certain things could have negative effects on international relations. The consequences could be large, but are somewhat unlikely to be immediate. (And in fairness, I did ask for the definition of that term to see if we were using a non-ordinary definition.)
    – D M
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 22:28
  • @DM Yes, I think answering this requires a definition of "immediate." Maybe the prof meant to write "imminent," which has, so far in my studies, been used more often. On the other hand, "immediate" literally means "without mediation" so maybe harm through the negative reactions of a foreign country or the economy does not count. I don't know what the legal standards or customs are for drawing the line.
    – kleinerde
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 23:49

Cultivating illicit drugs for personal consumption.

  • Possession means a past purchase or trade was made, which positively affects the drug market, which negatively affects the people by increasing solicitation of further purchases and other risks (e.g. of criminal acts under the influence of those drugs). Theoretically it could be an immediate effect.
    – kleinerde
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 5:23
  • @TQuile1948 not if you grow it yourself
    – Dale M
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 5:32
  • I think the seeds of an illegal plant are illegal, so buying them would be as well - same drug market issue.
    – kleinerde
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 5:43
  • @TQuile1948 Maybe it "could" have an effect, but it's also possible to find certain plants growing wild - maybe even on your own property.
    – D M
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 6:24
  • More generally, pretty much every crime that would be assigned to a "vice squad" fits this definition.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 2:46

Related questions:

Examples of U.S. crimes that have no direct or immediate effect on other persons or property:

  1. Operating a motor vehicle in public with an open container of alcohol inside.
  2. Attaching a vertical grip to a pistol.
  • The thought crime link is irrelevant as the answer misinterprets the term 'thought crime.'
    – A.fm.
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 13:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .