In this lesson, we will learn about crimes against morality. We will look at what these crimes are, what they mean, and take a closer look at some specific examples.

Crimes Against Morality

Crimes against morality are a category of crime that is considered victimless because there is no specific victim, especially when committed against consenting adults. Morality is defined as a descriptive account of social and personal values about the ways people in society should behave. This type of crime generally offends those values, or ‘code of conduct.’ This type of crime includes prostitution, bigamy, pornography, illegal gambling and illegal drug use.

As a result of shifts in moral perceptions of what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior over the years, the United States has seen an increase in the legislation and regulation of crimes against morality.


Prostitution is a crime of moral turpitude that involves the buying or selling of sex for profit. Prostitution includes soliciting for sexual acts and compelling another to complete sexual acts for money. This criminal act is punishable in most states by jail time. The focus of criminal law has increasingly thought of prostitution as not respectable, illegal and immoral.


Bigamy is a crime against morality that involves a married person marrying a second person while still being married to the first person. This is considered to be a crime against morality because it is considered to be harmful to the family – even if the current spouse agrees to it. Bigamy in most states is considered to be punishable by jail time.

An example of bigamy would be if a man and woman got married. Then, a year later, the husband decides to go out and marry a second woman while still being married to the first wife. This is considered to be a crime because he was still married to the first woman. The only way this would not be a crime is if the first wife had died.


Pornography is sex-related material designed to sexually arouse the person looking at it. These materials can be movies, pictures or magazines. Not all types of pornography are illegal, and in fact, many forms of it are protected by our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Pornography loses this protection when it becomes obscene or child-related. Possession, creation or sale of pornography that is obscene or child-related is a crime against morality.

Criminal pornography that is obscene lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. This definition may vary state-to-state because what some citizens in California may consider obscene or not obscene may not be the same as what citizens in Iowa think. Therefore, the laws may vary.

Child-related pornography is any photograph, film or computer-generated image that shows a minor, or someone under the age of 18, engaged in sexually explicit conduct. These laws do not vary state-to-state and are very strict. The crimes against morality of obscene or child-related pornography are punishable with a prison sanction.

Illegal Gambling

Illegal gambling is defined as pool-setting, bookmaking and various other illegal slot machines and lotteries. Illegal gambling is a crime against morality. It is considered a crime against morality because in recent years the law has come to be regarded as having the job of improving the quality of life for citizens and, in some cases, protecting them against themselves. Among other things, illegal gambling has been viewed as destroying families.

Controlled Substances

Illegal drugs are substances that have been deemed illegal by the federal government due to their lack of medicinal value. Illegal drugs are considered a crime against morality due to the potential harm to the user and his family. Additionally, certain drugs are legal due to medicinal value, but it is illegal to possess them without a prescription from a doctor. These drugs are not only considered a crime against morality due to the effects previously stated but also because they tend to go hand-in-hand with higher crime rates.

Lesson Summary

Crimes against morality are a category of crime that is considered victimless because there is no specific victim, especially when they are committed against consenting adults. These crimes are considered illegal mainly due to the offense of the moralities of the general public. The different types of crimes against morality include:

  • Prostitution
  • Bigamy
  • Pornography
  • Illegal gambling
  • Illegal drug use

Most types of crimes against morality involve a prison sanction as a punishment to the offender.

Learning Outcomes

When you complete the lesson, you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe what crimes against morality are
  • List the common crimes against morality in the United States