There are crimes called ‘situational’ crimes.
These kinds of crimes require an ‘outward act’ which consists of a relationship with the situation. If a woman is the registered owner of business premises where she operates a spa but the massage therapists of the spa engage in prostitution with the customers, the registered owner of the spa will have criminal liability for the prostitution. Her criminal liability is anchored on the very act of owning the business and the premises where prostitution is committed. Here, the owner did not engage in prostitution herself but she provided the place for it. She has criminal liability for the prostitution by mere ownership of the premises.
There are crimes that punish the very overt acts or conduct which the law seeks to prevent. These are called conduct crimes. There are crimes that punish not the conduct but the resulting harm. The resulting harm is what the law endeavours to prevent. Speeding is a conduct that the law prevents because of the possible harm that can result from it. The possible results of speeding which the law seeks to prevent are: damage to property, grievous bodily injury and death. Thus, when a motorists drives beyond the speed limit, even if no damage to property, grievous bodily injury or death has resulted yet, the speeding motorist is apprehended, charged and penalized for his conduct of driving beyond the speed limit.
A speeding motorist who collides with another car and causes the driver of the other car to break his arm is liable not only for speeding but also for the resulting harm to the driver of the other car. If a passenger of the other car got thrown out of the car from the impact and died of head trauma, the speeding motorist would be liable for the resulting death of the passenger as well. He will be liable for damage to property resulting from the collision.
The overt act must actually cause the resulting harm. If the overt act is committed by an accused but it does not cause the resulting harm which the law seeks to prevent, then there is no criminal liability for the resulting harm even if there was an overt act.
For example, during a heated argument, a man pushes the other such that the pushed man falls and hits his head on the pavement, the man who pushed him is liable for the resulting bodily injury to the other. The push was the direct and natural cause of the other man’s head injury. If during the argument, one pushed the other, but before he fell on the pavement a drunk driver swerved and hits him, pins him against the wall causing massive internal injuries which result in his death, the act of pushing him did not result in the other man’s death. Another overt act caused his death. The loss of control of the vehicle by the drunk driver is the cause for the man’s death and so the criminal liability for the man’s death falls on the drunk driver, not the man who pushed him.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.