A Two-Dimensional Space for Classifing Legal Offenses

Shlomo Shoham, Louis Guttman, Giora Rahav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the past, conceptual differences between behavioral and legal definitions made a synthesis between the two approaches extremely difficult. The present study utilizes a relatively new nonmetric measurement technique-the Multi-dimensional Scalogram Analysis (MSA)-in an attempt to conceptually analyze the four relevant components of a criminal offense: a) the criminal law norm (legal norm), b) the actor (offender), c) the act (offense), and d) the object (victim). A theoretical model, assuming interaction among the four com ponents of the criminal offense, was constructed and an empirical analysis of crime within the framework of a legal definition was undertaken. Based on the definitions used in the study, several rela tionships were studied between actus reus and mens rea, the legal norms violated, the offender, the criminal act, and the object of the criminal act. The empirical findings suggest that the basic structure of the criminal offense is comprised of the dyadic relationship between the offender and the victim. Actus reus elements appear to be after-the-fact intervention for the assessment of damages of injuries and the mens rea elements are also imputed after the fact to the offender in order to punish his indeterministic evil intent. The implications of the findings for research on administration of criminal justice and sentencing are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-235
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1970
Externally publishedYes


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