Malum Prohibitum Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Malum Prohibitum, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Malum Prohibitum?

(n) Malum Prohibitum are the activities which are considered as crime by their specific introduction or defining in the statute as a crime. For example white collar crimes are not an apparent crime by its nature if we evaluate it with our conventional yardstick of identifying a criminal activity. But it is crime by Malum Prohibitum.

History and Meaning of Malum Prohibitum

Malum Prohibitum is a Latin term that translates to "wrong because prohibited." The term is commonly used in criminal law to describe an act that is not inherently wrong but becomes illegal because it is prohibited by law. The concept of Malum Prohibitum dates back to ancient Roman Law, where any act that was prohibited by the ruler was considered a crime.

In modern times, Malum Prohibitum crimes refer to activities that are deemed unlawful by the government but are not inherently immoral or harmful, such as traffic violations or tax evasion. The rationale behind criminalizing such acts is that they disrupt the societal order and uphold the law rather than reflect individual moral values.

Examples of Malum Prohibitum

  1. Jaywalking: Crossing the road in an undesignated area becomes a crime because of a legal prohibition. It may cause harm to individuals or the community indirectly, but it is not inherently a wrong act.

  2. Speeding: Driving over the speed limit is Malum Prohibitum, as it is not inherently wrong but is prohibited by traffic laws to prevent accidents and traffic jams.

  3. Tax Evasion: Not declaring income or hiding wealth becomes illegal due to tax laws, which make it mandatory for individuals and businesses to pay tax according to the law.

  4. Underage Drinking: Although individuals may see drinking alcohol as a personal choice, it can be a Malum Prohibitum if it is prohibited by law due to age restrictions.

Legal Terms Similar to Malum Prohibitum

  1. Malum in se: This term refers to acts that are inherently wrong, such as murder or theft, and are illegal irrespective of any legal prohibition.

  2. Felony: A felony is an offense that is punishable by a year or more in prison. The severity of the punishment is not dependent on any legal prohibition but on the severity of the crime.

  3. Misdemeanor: A less serious offense that is punishable by imprisonment for less than a year or by a fine. The magnitude of the punishment is not dependent on any legal prohibition but on the severity of the crime.