I realise that laws vary by country and by jurisdiction within a country. I would therefore invite answers according to the preference and expertise of the person answering. If I have to specify more narrowly then I will restrict my question to first world English speaking countries.

I'm not a lawyer so I will give my own ideas and ask for more qualified people to expand on them.

  1. Men
    I presume that a charge of rape can only be pursued against a man or against someone who has the necessary anatomy. Is that right?

  2. Mature individuals
    A criminal charge can only be made against people who are over a certain age. Children under that age are exempt.

  3. Human beings
    Although in the past, non-human animals could be convicted of crimes. That is no longer the case in Western societies.

  4. Is there a fourth category?


What criminal laws are there that can only be applied to certain sectors of the populace according to their biological status. (Age, gender, anatomy, species etc.)

  • 8
    (1) is wrong. Rape is possible both female to female and female to male.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 3, 2015 at 2:29
  • 2
    (3) is also wrong - see civil asset forfeiture.
    – jimsug
    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:29
  • You're asking for specific criminal statutes or crimes, right? You're not just looking for "fourth categories"?
    – jimsug
    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:33
  • 2
    @gnasher729 that may depend on jurisdiction. Rape as defined by the UK Sexual Offences Act 2003 can only be committed by a person with a penis.
    – bdsl
    Mar 6, 2016 at 23:40

4 Answers 4


In the United States, the mentally disabled cannot be sentenced to capital punishment. (Atkins v. Virginia 536 U.S. 304 (2002))

Many states treat the display of female breasts differently than the display of male breasts. For example, see Minnesota Statutes 617.292 which deems the "showing of the female breast" to be nudity.


Women/females, in the case of laws pertaining to receiving an abortion. A male is biologically incapable of gestation.

Boys/males, in the case of religious laws concerning circumcision. Females do not have a penis.

(There is a mis-applied phrase "female circumcision" also, but that is an entirely different thing, a far worse mutilation involving the intentional destruction of the clitoris, which is more a crime against humanity than a religious/hygiene ritual)

  • A person who is circumcised would not be the perpetrator of an act which is legal or illegal. He is someone who it is done to. The law would apply to the surgeon or not-surgeon as the case may be. This is dissimilar to abortion, where there exist laws which criminalise a woman for having it done.
    – Stewart
    Oct 2, 2018 at 17:18

More of a Canadian answer - but criminal charges can apply to children, albeit differently. This answer focuses more on Canadian law, especially since this will vary by jurisdiction.


In Canada, prosecution of criminal acts committed by youth are 'regulated' under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. As noted in the Preamble of the act, the justice system recognizes that youth do not have the adequate mental capacity to be completely responsible for their actions, and that rehabilitation of the youth should be performed with involvement in the community, largely through extrajudicial measures (i.e. incarceration and custody is highly discouraged).

Therefore, youth are treated vastly different in the justice system. As for ages, §13 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that no person shall be convicted of an offence when that person is under the age of twelve. The Youth Criminal Justice Act covers youth between 12 to 18.

Most youth caught in the act of committing a crime may not be arrested and charged immediately. Often enough, the police will issue an informal warning or formal police cautions or referral to a community organization. If the police refers the case to the Crown, they may issue a Crown caution, or an extrajudicial sanction - often where the youth will affirm not to indulge in a certain behaviour. This is somewhat similar to a plea bargain - except for that charges can be laid if the sanction is not followed, and agreement to comply with the sanction does not actually constitute a plea.


So, suppose a youth committed a crime, and is subsequently found guilty. What happens?

  1. Trial

    First off, the trial will be held in a youth court. This is a special court for trying offences by youth, and is completely separate from other adult courts.

    Since one of the the aims of the YCJA is for youth to understand the damage done to the community, there may be opportunities for victims to provide a victim-impact statement. These statements can come from the victims of the crime, first responders, and members of the community.

  2. Decision to impose an adult sentence.

    If a youth is found guilty of a presumptive offence - which includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, and aggravated sexual assault - an adult sentence may be imposed. However, there are limitations to this. First off, they must be of age. The age in which an adult sentence can be imposed varies by province. In British Columbia, this age is 14. In Quebec, it is 16. An offence may also be considered presumptive if it is violent, or if it is a repeat offence.

    Of further note is that to impose an adult sentence, it must be shown that youth sentencing options can not rehabilitate the youth and provide a meaningful consequence. The Crown must also ask the court for an adult sentence.


Sentencing is perhaps the most notable aspect for youth crimes. §3 and 4 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act state that measure against young persons must bring a sense of accountability, enforce societal values, and encourage repair of damage done to the community. §5 captures this brilliantly:

5 Extrajudicial measures should be designed to
(a) provide an effective and timely response to offending behaviour outside the bounds of judicial measures;
(b) encourage young persons to acknowledge and repair the harm caused to the victim and the community;
(c) encourage families of young persons — including extended families where appropriate — and the community to become involved in the design and implementation of those measures;
(d) provide an opportunity for victims to participate in decisions related to the measures selected and to receive reparation; and
(e) respect the rights and freedoms of young persons and be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence.

As extrajudicial measures are encouraged, the rates of incarceration are significantly low. Custodial measures are only imposed where youth have committed violent offences, non-compliance with non-custodial measures, and others. Custodial measures often have a maximum of 2 to 10 years, based on the severity and type of the offence committed, as well as any aggravating or mitigating factors. There are also other documents such as pre-sentence reports to consider as well.

Often, extrajudicial measures imposed on youth include community service, restitution, participation in a community organization, and more.

Further Reading:


Stupid people. Overwhelmingly, the prison population consists of the lowest quartile of IQ.

  • 4
    The laws do not apply differently to stupid people. (Actually, if anything, the most mentally impaired are exempt from prosecution.) Noting that a particular segment disproportionately breaks laws doesn't exactly seem to answer the question. E.g., those convicted of violent crime are overwhelmingly men, but the laws broken apply equally to women.
    – feetwet
    Nov 3, 2015 at 4:28
  • @feetwet theoretically laws are applied equally; practically if a disproportionate part of the population are affected by the law then the theory is breaking down.
    – Dale M
    Nov 3, 2015 at 7:36
  • 3
    That sounds like a reductio ad absurdum of the "unequal outcomes evidence unequal treatment" argument.
    – feetwet
    Nov 3, 2015 at 13:19
  • I would accept this if you could cite some legal definition of 'stupid'. I suppose that there may be laws protecting people who have some form of congenital mental incompetency. Nov 3, 2015 at 17:52
  • 1
    You are also assuming, without giving justification, that "stupidity" is a function of biology. May 15, 2016 at 14:58

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