A crime is an act committed by a real person or artificial person that contravenes a clearly expressed prohibition in law that carries a punishment for that contravention whether or not any actual damage to property or injury to person takes place. Unlike private disputes between persons in tort, the person who commits a crime is answerable to the sovereign state with jurisdiction over the crime and not the victim of the crime. Many crimes are also types of intentional tort, but there is no necessity that a crime be tortious.

Crimes fall into several categories:

In most jurisdictions, crimes must be a violation of a written statute rather than common law, although the concept of a common law crime lasted well into the 20th century.

Furthermore, punishment for a crime may only be ordered if the offence can be proved to beyond a reasonable doubt rather than merely on the balance of probabilities. In addition, those accused of a crime in court are entitled to a presumption of innocence.