What is the difference in meaning and use of the phrases "illegal activity" and "criminal activity"? Is one broader than the other?

1 Answer 1


Illegal activity is activity that contravenes the law.

Criminal activity is illegal activity that is also a crime. What constitutes a crime is usually detailed in a criminal code in each jurisdiction but can derive from common law crimes like murder, arson, rape etc. A crime is an offense against society and is generally prosecuted by the state.

For example (may vary by jurisdiction):

  • Breaking a contract - illegal
  • Stopping in a No Stopping zone - illegal
  • Negligently polluting the environment - illegal
  • Breaking someone's arm - crime
  • Deliberately ramming someone with your car - crime
  • Recklessly polluting the environment - crime
  • @Philipp what is a crime?
    – FunFacts12
    Mar 4, 2016 at 6:48

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