Criminology exam answers

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1. Describe the various types of murder. Discuss the issues involved in trying to solve each type of murder. Which are most likely and least likely to be resolved?

First Degree/Capital Murder – One of the serious charges it is often the one that requires premeditation, planning, and deliberate action to commit murder. Some states add additional attributes to first degree murder charge such as motive, the context of the murder, and in what manner the murder took place. An example would be someone plotting to kill someone, learning their daily routine and habits. Acquiring a weapon and stalking out the victim are all examples of premeditation and would result in a first degree murder charge.

Issues in solving or defending first degree murder charges require understanding if the criminal admits to the killing and asserts self-defense or if the criminal indicates that they did not do the killing. Resolution could lie in justified homicide such as self-defense; mistaken identity, was the person accused at the scene of the crime; accidental death such as parental discipline or even insanity. The prosecution has to convince the jury without doubt that the defendant is the correct person placing them with evidence or they have to disprove insanity defense and/or self-defense defenses. This charge would be the hardest to resolve, the recent Hernandez trial proves that even though the defense may have put reasonable doubt as to the First Degree Murder charge (no murder weapon, no independent witnesses, circumstantial evidence by the prosecution), he still was convicted of First Degree murder.

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Second Degree Murder – This charge is seen as killing without malice; that there was no premeditation or deliberate planning. For example, if someone is in a heated argument and attacks the victim in anger resulting in that person’s death; the likely charge would be second degree murder as there was no pre-planning and it was done without premeditation. Issues in solving or defending second degree murder charges lay in the fact that most charged with this degree claim they did not commit the crime. There are also those that admit to the killing but indicate that the crime was justified. Resolution could lie in actual innocence; self-defense or insanity. Again, the prosecution has burden of proof that the defendant committed the crime.

Felony Murder – The charge of felony murder is used when someone is killed during another felony. It usually isn’t planned out or intended but happens as a consequence of the other felony. If a robber shoots and kills a guard during the course of a bank robbery, felony murder charges would be brought against the criminal

Involuntary Manslaughter – If negligence results in death, a person can be charged with involuntary manslaughter. An example could be when you drink and drive and get into an accident that results in a death. This is criminal negligence or involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary Manslaughter – Usually is applied when one person kills another without malice, in that they did not intend for that person to die. There are many times when higher murder charges (such as second degree murder) have been reduced to voluntary manslaughter, each state has its own definitions for manslaughter charges. Provocation is generally used here, meaning that voluntary manslaughter charges tend to occur when a victim is provoked into killing such as finding a spouse in bed with another person.

Each degree charged brings with it, its own level of punishments each degree having gradual increase in severity. Murder versus manslaughter can be subtle in their differences, partly because an accidental killing (usually manslaughter) can be constituted as second degree murder.

2. Find three examples of how the internet has facilitated and expanded the variety and types of property crimes that are being perpetrated today.

The internet is expanding its reach and making it easier for criminals to steal your identity.[1] One way is through phishing scams right into your email inbox. Phishing is when cybercriminals may send emails that look like they come from legitimate businesses such as a bank or credit card company. People that receive these emails are told there are problems with their account and in order to fix them, they need to enter their personal data into the linked website. Once entered, the hackers now have your personal data and can do a few different things, such as creating separate bank accounts in your name without your knowledge. They can gain access to your current accounts or create viruses that forwards their phishing emails to your contacts.

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Another way the internet has expanded property crimes is through the way we can easily download and obtain copyrighted material.[2] It is illegal for people to download music, movies, or books through the internet, they are all considered theft of property (piracy) and yet the internet has allowed the practice to flourish through websites and file hosting sites. Piracy costs the industry billions of dollars and the ease with which the internet allows the transfer of data is why it is so rampant.

With internet usage increase comes the expansion of fraud online through the acquisition and resale of illegally obtained goods and merchandise. This is classified as etailing fraud and the internet has allowed the growth of merchandise sold online illegally.

3. Pick one of the white collar crimes and present a case for why it is or is not more harmful than a violent crime.

I read about Adoption Scams[3] for this question and the emotional toll that is thrust upon the victims is hard to read about. In many adoption scam cases, couples seeking to adopt are contacted by the criminal indicating that they know of a baby from Russia up for adoption, or birth mothers promise their unborn child to multiple couples or even cases of bringing in and involving kidnapped children. The criminals provide just enough details to string the couples along, such as photographs and email trails. The criminal is simply doing this for the monetary gain, not taking into account and pain the couple may feel.

Many couples get invested once they believe that a child is its way to them. These are couples who, perhaps, have spent years struggling with conception and may have invested time, money, and emotions into alternate ways to conceive. This journey has probably already been an emotional rollercoaster for the victims and the hope of having a child through adoption will set them up for another emotional ride. These victims are preparing for the arrival of a child into their lives, filled with hope. They may have started decorating a nursery, expanding on their homes or scheduled maternity leave at their jobs. Monetary investment aside, many of these victims will suffer when they realize they have been scammed and there is no child “For some victims, it’s like losing a child.”[4]

Crime of any kind is harmful and its impact will resonant over a wide range. Someone commits a violent crime, those that are impacted are not solely the person attacked or killed. Family, friends, and loved ones are impacted by the attack and/or death of the victim so violent crimes don’t only affect one but many. White collar crime such as the adoption scam not only harms the victims but also the victim’s families. In the case of kidnapping, multiple families are involved. If we are comparing violent crimes to white collar crimes and weighing life or death, than yes, the adoption scam is less damaging but there are no victimless crimes (in my opinion) and we should consider the emotional and financial impact of this scam.

4. Discuss the different types of transnational organized crime. Present possible ways for combating these types of crimes.

Transnational organized crime is when a crime has been committed in more than one state or nation and usually involves the coordination and planning of numerous people and groups. Much like organized crime before the internet, transnational organized crime is compromised in a hierarchical manner with a leader supported by close advisors. The main purpose is to engage in criminal activity at a global level such as money laundering and computer crime. They use electronic communications to communicate and push forward their illegal agenda. Social networks are used by members to communicate with each other and sometimes to spread their message.

Some types of transnational organized crime include groups that are involved in money laundering, drug and arms trafficking, and human smuggling. They endorse and are involved with trading in narcotics, pornography, illegal weapons and prostitution. Combating these groups multinational organizations are difficult. There is always someone else to step in when a group or gang is eliminated. Drug money is a huge source of foreign revenue many of these groups and the corruption of police and military makes suppression hard to enforce on any scale. Federal agencies are charged with combating transnational crime, they do so through international working groups that share intelligence and plot out strategies and directives to take against these cartels.


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[1] < http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html>

[2] <http://law.jrank.org/pages/11992/Cyber-Crime-Intellectual-property-theft.html>

[3] <http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2006/august/adoptscams_082806>

[4] Ibid.