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15 Must-Know Crime and Punishment Terms!

December 16th, 2019 crime and punishment

Terms and Definitions for the Police Exam

During the police written exam, you will encounter terms and definitions as they relate to crime and punishment. Here, we review many of the terms that you are expected to know during the police officer exam.

It doesn’t matter what profession you join. You must know the lingo; the means through which you can communicate with colleagues, with written reports, and with the population at large.

In other words, knowing these crime and punishment terms is not a choice. It’s mandatory knowledge for any aspiring police officer in the United States. Below, we’ve put together some of the most common police vocabulary as it relates to crime and punishment.

If you are struggling to remember these terms, we encourage you to follow these steps:

  • Try to use the word in everyday conversations. The more you accurately use the phrase, and perhaps even explaining it to others, the more memorable that term or phrase becomes.
  • Write original sample sentences with the term. Don’t just copy definitions from the Internet or books. That doesn’t make terms and phrases memorable. Instead, you need to actively come up with your own, unique sentences. It makes things far more memorable the more thought you need to put into each sentence. Similarly, the more unusual the sentence, the more memorable it comes.
  • Make police flashcards. Flashcards are a great way to commit the essential and relevant facts to memory. Swipe from one flashcard to the next for some excellent rapid revision.

So, with these police test study tips to hand, let’s get started and review some of the most common crime and punishment terms you can expect to face. Along with these terms, try to become familiar with some criminology theories that attempt to explain why these crimes take place in the first place.

Crime and Punishment Terms

Term Definition
Criminology Scientific study of criminal behavior; examining the causes, nature, and management of crime on both the individual and society at large.
Penology A discipline of criminology that talks about how crimes are punished; the study of crime punishment and prison management.
Probation Term that describes supervision of an offender, instead of that offender serving jail time. A probation officer describes the terms that the offender must abide by to be supervised out of prison.
Parole Early release of a prisoner from jail, who are expected to abide by specific conditions. If they break those conditions while on parole, they may be returned to jail to finish their sentence.
Exclusionary Rule A legal rule that sets out that evidence collected that breaks a defendant’s constitutional rights may not be used as evidence in a court of law. It is found in the Fourth Amendment to the US constitution.
Rehabilitation The means through which an offender is re-educated and re-trained to ensure that they do not return to a life of crime once released from jail.
Recidivism The act of an offender repeating the same type of crime after they have already been convicted of that crime and released from jail, or who commit the same type of crime after undergoing rehabilitation.
Incarceration A term that describes imprisonment. A person who is incarcerated has been imprisoned in jail.
Habitual offender A phrase that describes an offender who repeatedly commits crime; it has become a “habit”.
Deterrence The concept of trying to deter, or prevent, crimes from happening in the first place. The threat of jail, for example, acts as a means of deterring crime. Deterrence is a discipline of penology.
Blue-collar crime Crimes committed by people of a lower social class.
White-collar crime Crimes committed by people of higher social class.
Malfeasance Unlawful conduct that obstructs or impairs official duty. Wrongdoing by a public official, such as a US senator committing a political crime in his own interests.
Solicitation The act of encouraging another person to commit a crime; they are “soliciting crime” – aiding the attempt or financial commission to encourage that crime.
Mens rea Latin term that translates as, “guilty mind”. Mens rea refers to the mental health of a person when they commit a crime. An individual of insane mind is not held guilty of a crime, for example.

Final Thoughts

These terms can come up in many different parts of the police test.

For instance, they can come up in many parts of the police written test:

  • You may be asked to identify any misspelled words.
  • These terms may appear as part of reading comprehension questions.
  • Police interview questions may include these terms and phrases.

Furthermore, as a police officer in the United States, you are expected to have a rounded knowledge of these terms and phrases – which come up time and time again.

If you are already a registered member of Police Test Study Guide, you have access to 350+ flashcards that cover the most common police vocabulary and offer sample tips and example sentences. If you are not yet a member, register now.

Check back to our blog soon for more great content on crime and punishment and all things related to the police test!


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