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SOC101Y1 Chapter Notes -Actus Reus, Mens Rea, Labeling Theory

Course Code
Robert Brym

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SOC101 December 4-2013
Crime and Deviance
Studying Normalcy
-Studying crime and devience is studying norms, studying society’s expectations
-Studying crime and deviance means studying normalcy
-Taking the boundaries of acceptability as an object of inquiry instead of taken for granted.
-Three big questions organizing the study of crime
-Why do people commit crimes?
-What to do about crime?
And more recently…
What is crime?
The Social
Criminology combines elements from Psychology (sometimes biology), Law and Sociology to
study its substantive topic: Crime
Sociology comes in and speaks to the role of the ‘Social’ in understanding crime and deviance:
-Class and Stratification
-Race and Ethinicity
Crime and Criminal Code
-The Criminal Code defines it as: “The int’l violation of criminal law without defense and
without excuse.”
-4 Components of Criminal Code:
-Politicality: Laws are enacted by the legislature, that is, people who are elected.
Looking at what the legal/illegal is part of the political process. (Social movements,
lobbyists, and political groups will attempt to change laws, take them away or come up
with new ones)
-Specificity: Sets out, to the point, exactly what is a crime and what isn’t a crime. It’s the
idea of ‘due process’, to balance your rights, and to make sure that there are many
procedures that the system needs to go through to prove guilt.
-Uniformity: Making sure that the criminal Code applies to everyone equally.
-Penal Sanctions: Punishments that are set in advance. These specific sanctions set
guidelines for judges to decide on a sentence
To be found guilty
To be found guilty 2 things must take place:
-Actus reus and mens rea must always be together for something to be considered a crime
Actus reus: An act has been committed
Mens rea: The intent – knowing what you’re doing (though different from motive)
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SOC101 December 4-2013
Two Types of Crimes
-“Mala in se”: Crimes that are bad/evil in themselves. They’re always considered deviant,
regardless of time and place. (Some examples: murder, child abuse, etc.) – some consensus
-“Mala prohibita”: Illegal crimes because of the law, they’re considered bad because they are
prohibited. (Speeding, illegal downloading, etc.) – less consensus
Assumptions: Human Nature
-Human Nature evil------good
-People are inherently evil or good
-Evil – commit crimes because they can, it’s easy or they want too
-Good – commit crimes out of necessity, conflict, etc.
-Asks: “without rules, how would people react?”
-Crime control depends on how people are viewed:
-Evil – deterrence, prison, isolation
-Good – rehabilitation
Assumptions: Social Order
-Social Order top------bottom
-Crime needs to be reglated
-Top – heavily centralized powerful state
-Bottom – minimal state
-No consensus because of different beliefs
-As long as population doesn’t do things that harm others, then it’s none of the
state’s business
Canadians Attitudes Towards Crime
-Canadian national surveys reveal crime has been among top three issues since 1970s
-Canadians believe that crime in general, and violent crime in particular is on the rise
Crime in the media
-Most crimes depicted in the media are represented by certain stereotypes (youth, minorities,
-Mast majority of crimes aren’t mala in se.
-Crimes which are considered criminal and deviant are portrayed in the media much more
-The media also hears more about crimes that entail a prison punishment
-Crimes are punished with probation, fines and tickets are rarely heard of
-Violent crimes are over-represented
-Any behaviour, belief, or condition that violates cultural norms in the society or group in which
it occurs
-According to sociologists, deviance is relative – that is, an act becomes deviant when it is
socially defined as such. Definitions of deviance vary widely from place to place, from time to
time and from group to group.
-Sociologists study:
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