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What is the difference between "mala in se" and "mala prohibita"?

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Quick Answer

“Mala in se” refers to acts that are bad all by themselves, such as violent crimes. The term “mala prohibita” refers to acts that are illegal even though they may not be actually evil, such as public indecency.

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Full Answer

Both of these phrases are legal terms. “Mala in se” is Latin, and it translates as “bad in itself,” or “wrong in itself.” It’s referring to crimes that are a threat to life or limb, such as assault, battery, larceny or other offenses in the common law. These acts are considered bad in general for communities. Common law, which refers to laws that come from court decisions instead of a previous statute, is often based on the concept of “mala in se.” Due to this procedure, many modern crimes that are prohibited by statute fall into the “mala in se” category since the statutes are created in response to a court decision.

Acts that are “mala prohibita” aren’t necessarily wrong all by themselves even though they are illegal, such as jaywalking. Other examples include public intoxication and parking violations. Although these acts are prohibited by law, there is nothing necessarily inherently evil about them. Both “mala prohibita” and “mala in se” are subject to debate in court.

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