Glossary
Chapter 6
Actus Reus A guilty (prohibited) act. The commission of a prohibited act is one of the two essential elements required for criminal liability, the other element being the intent to commit a crime.
Mens Rea Mental state, or intent. Normally, a wrongful mental state is as necessary as a wrongful act to establish criminal liability. What constitutes such a mental state varies according to the wrongful action. Thus, for murder, the mens rea is the intent to take a life.
Arson The intentional burning of another’s building. Some statutes have expanded this to include any real property regardless of ownership and the destruction of property by other means—for example, by explosion.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt The standard of proof used in criminal cases. If there is any reasonable doubt that a criminal defendant committed the crime with which she or he has been charged, then the verdict must be “not guilty.”
Botnet A network of computers that have been appropriated without the knowledge of their owners and used to spread harmful programs via the Internet; short for robot network.
Burglary The unlawful entry or breaking into a building with the intent to commit a felony. (Some state statutes expand this to include the intent to commit any crime.)
Computer Crime Any wrongful act that is directed against computers and computer parts or that involves the wrongful use or abuse of computers or software.
Crime A wrong against society set forth in a statute and, if committed, punishable by society through fines and/or imprisonment—and, in some cases, death.
Cyber Crime A crime that occurs online, in the virtual community of the Internet, as opposed to the physical world.
Cyber Fraud Any misrepresentation knowingly made over the Internet with the intention of deceiving another and on which a reasonable person would and does rely to his or her detriment.
Cyberterrorist A person who uses the Internet to attack or sabotage businesses and government agencies with the purpose of disrupting infrastructure systems.
Double Jeopardy A situation occurring when a person is tried twice for the same criminal offense; prohibited by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Duress Unlawful pressure brought to bear on a person, causing the person to perform an act that she or he would not otherwise have performed.
Embezzlement The fraudulent appropriation of funds or other property by a person to whom the funds or property has been entrusted.
Entrapment In criminal law, a defense in which the defendant claims that he or she was induced by a public official—usually an undercover agent or police officer—to commit a crime that he or she would not otherwise have committed.
Exclusionary Rule In criminal procedure, a rule under which any evidence that is obtained in violation of the accused’s rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as any evidence derived from illegally obtained evidence, will not be admissible in court.
Felony A crime—such as arson, murder, rape, or robbery—that carries the most severe sanctions, ranging from one year in a state or federal prison to the death penalty.
Forgery The fraudulent making or altering of any writing in a way that changes the legal rights and liabilities of another.
Grand Jury A group of citizens called to decide, after hearing the state’s evidence, whether a reasonable basis (probable cause) exists for believing that a crime has been committed and that a trial ought to be held.
Hacker A person who uses one computer to break into another.
Identity Theft The theft of identity information, such as a person’s name, driver’s license number, or Social Security number. The information is then usually used to access the victim’s financial resources.
Indictment A charge by a grand jury that a named person has committed a crime.
Information A formal accusation or complaint (without an indictment) issued in certain types of actions (usually criminal actions involving lesser crimes) by a government prosecutor.
Larceny The wrongful taking and carrying away of another person’s personal property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Some states classify larceny as either grand or petit, depending on the property’s value.
Malware Any program that is harmful to a computer or a computer user; for example, worms and viruses.
Misdemeanor A lesser crime than a felony, punishable by a fine or incarceration in jail for up to one year.
Money Laundering Engaging in financial transactions to conceal the identity, source, or destination of illegally gained funds.
Petty Offense In criminal law, the least serious kind of criminal offense, such as a traffic or building-code violation.
Phishing The attempt to acquire financial data, passwords, or other personal information from consumers by sending e-mail messages that purport to be from a legitimate business, such as a bank or a credit-card company.
Plea Bargaining The process by which a criminal defendant and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case, subject to court approval; usually involves the defendant’s pleading guilty to a lesser offense in return for a lighter sentence.
Probable Cause Reasonable grounds for believing that a person should be arrested or searched.
Robbery The act of forcefully and unlawfully taking personal property of any value from another. Force or intimidation is usually necessary for an act of theft to be considered a robbery.
Search Warrant An order granted by a public authority, such as a judge, that authorizes law enforcement personnel to search particular premises or property.
Self-Defense The legally recognized privilege to protect oneself or one’s property against injury by another. The privilege of self-defense usually applies only to acts that are reasonably necessary to protect oneself, one’s property, or another person.
Self-Incrimination The giving of testimony that may subject the testifier to criminal prosecution. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects against self-incrimination by providing that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”
Spam Bulk e-mails, particularly of commercial advertising, sent in large quantities without the consent of the recipients.
Trojan Horse A computer program that appears to perform a legitimate function but in fact performs a malicious function that allows the sender to gain unauthorized access to the user’s computer; named after the wooden horse that enabled the Greek forces to gain access to the city of Troy in the ancient story.
Virus A computer program that can replicate itself over a network, such as the Internet, and interfere with the normal use of a computer. A virus cannot exist as a separate entity and must attach itself to another program to move through a network.
Vishing A variation of phishing that involves some form of voice communication. The consumer receives either an e-mail or a phone call from someone claiming to be from a legitimate business and asking for personal information. Instead of being asked to respond by e-mail as in phishing, the consumer is asked to call a phone number.
White-Collar Crime Nonviolent crime committed by individuals or corporations to obtain a personal or business advantage.
Worm A computer program that can automatically replicate itself over a network such as the Internet and interfere with the normal use of a computer. A worm does not need to be attached to an existing file to move from one network to another.