General Question

elbanditoroso's avatar

When a criminal is contemplating a crime, does he/she take into account the possibility of being caught and jailed?

Asked by elbanditoroso (24296points) January 9th, 2017

[I’m talking about planned crimes here, not crimes of passion.]

Let’s say that a criminal is making plans to rob a bank, or embezzle money, or murder someone – something serious. Not shoplifting. I assume that the criminal thinks about what they’re planning to do, maybe buys a weapon, plans the getaway route, and so on and so forth.

Do criminals ever factor in the possibility of jail time? Does a criminal say “well, if I rob the bank, I could get 10 years in the state pen – is it worth the risk?”.

Basically, does the possibility (and severity) of punishment weigh into the decision to do, or not do, the crime?

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22 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I would have to guess no, they probably think they covered everything thing so they won’t get caught or serve any time.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Let’s go way down on the criminal level do people think about the ticket and or fine when speeding or using their cell phone while driving, again I would have to guess NO.
So with the last part of your question
Basically, does the possibility (and severity) of punishment weigh into the decision to do, or not do, the crime?
I am going to say NO.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

No they rationalize that they are right and justified In what they do.

Sneki95's avatar

Of course they do. That is exactly why they do the crime in a way that they won’t get caught.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Obviously circumstances vary. Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

But sometimes a robbery turns into murder when the criminal thinks it’s better to eliminate the witnesses.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I don’t think that thinking is one of their strong points when It gets to crime.

zenvelo's avatar

I think that usually that the consequence of getting caught is considered, and a realization of punishment if caught.

But as in many things where people misunderstand risks, the potential punishment is discounted and not as onerous as it often is.

People commit crimes all the time, and then are shocked at the extent of their sentence.

SergeantQueen's avatar

(My answer is referring to a serial killer, not so much a robber or anything else)
A smart criminal would. They don’t always think about getting caught, some think they got everything covered like @SQUEEKY2 says. But those people tend to be more reckless in crimes because they think they cannot get caught. Some serial killers clean everything up after a crime and don’t leave any trace besides a dead body. Those people have created a well thought out plan, that could include cleaning blood up, taking the weapon with them, etc. because if they hadn’t thought about getting caught they wouldn’t have been so careful committing the crime.

Edit: They might not always think so deep into the thought of getting caught, like sentencing and things, but they do definitely think about the possibility of getting caught in terms of getting caught would mean they cannot kill anymore, and if they are sick enough to enjoy killing getting caught is obviously not in their plans.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Some do, some don’t. The ones who don’t, get caught. The ones who do, don’t get caught.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 “I don’t think that thinking is one of their strong points when It gets to crime.”

You would be amazed. Don’t assume every criminal is some impulsive, dim-witted shithead carelessly knocking over 7/11’s with “born to lose” tattooed on their arm.

LostInParadise's avatar

I find it hard to understand why Bernie Madoff did what he did. How could he possibly imagine that he would not get caught?

Setanta's avatar

According to Nietzsche, in Beyond Good and Evil, no, they don’t take that into account. He used the simile of them seeing it as a misfortune, like a hiker in the mountains who is unexpectedly caught in a landslide. Indeed, why would someone go out to commit a crime believing that they would be caught?

Strauss's avatar

Certain corporations might consider fines and sanctions a “cost of doing business”.

zenvelo's avatar

@LostInParadise Bernie Madoff had a stock trading firm that was one of the largest NASDAQ market makers. And he was very good and successful at it.

But market making, where you make money buying and selling stock in and out all day long as many times as possible, capturing the spread, is much different from long term investing, where one buys and holds positions for days and months at a time. Bernie was a trader, not an investor.

But most people confuse knowledge of one with knowledge of the other. So when friends and acquaintances were willing to trust him with huge amounts of money, he thought he could do it. and like many people, he thought if he got more under his control, he would be able to make a profit and make everyone whole.

So part of it was greed and dishonesty, and also a large part was thinking he could always make enough back to avoid getting in trouble.

blueknight73's avatar

I think they do at first, But the more they get away with it, the less they think they will ever get caught. A friend of mine is an F.B.I. Agent, and he told me about arresting a bank teller that had stolen $100,000 dollars over a period of about 7 years.

It started out one day when she didn’t have lunch money and took $10 dollars out of her drawer, and got away with it. She told him it got up to where she was taking whatever she needed

LostInParadise's avatar

@zenvelo , It is my understanding that Madoff ran a Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme has to eventually come to an end. Surely Madoff could see this.

kritiper's avatar

Apparently not. Just like some guy who would pull a gun in a crowd and not think that there might be an off-duty policeman around.

Darth_Algar's avatar


That’s just being flagrantly stupid. Discrepancies in the amount your drawer should have and the amount it actually has might be written off (if the amount is small enough) once or twice over a period of a few years. Anything more than that is going to raise some eyebrows.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I totally agree @Darth_Algar the tellers draw would have to balance at the end of her shift, a small discrepancy might be chalked up to a mistake but anymore would definitely bring the boss down on her.

jca's avatar

My guess with the tale of the bank teller is that it may have started by her taking a few bucks out of the drawer, but it couldn’t have remained that way for long. A teller has to “prove” at the end of the work day and any discrepancy will be figured out down to the penny. More than a few times of that and she’d be out of a job. My guess is she advanced with her theivery to embezzling or something more sophisticated.

Setanta's avatar

I have said almost all of my adult life that crime usually does not pay because of the caliber of the people who go into the proffession.+

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