Political crime can be viewed as activity that is deemed to be political in nature, while it is in violation of local law, national law, or international law. Acting to cause grave damage to the state, acting in treasonous ventures against the state, and threatening the existence or power or well being of the state constitutes political crime. Also acting to deny human and civil rights and freedoms can be considered political crimes.
Political crime can also be viewed in some countries legal systems as a grave and major violation of the combined moral, ethical, or other imperatives of a nation, international agreements, and in some countries, religious law.
In the US, local, state, and federal laws are written to apply specifically to elected officials while they hold office. Violations of those laws constitute criminal offenses that to not apply to the average citizen, unless the citizen is involved in the crime.
When politicians are arrested for and common crimes that have well established standards for defining individual and personal criminal activity, these are not political crimes. They are individual violations of the law that apply to everyone.
But politicians who improperly release classified information or who take bribes in exchange for their vote on a particular matter are considered for special criminal violations, along with the individuals who placed the bribes. These are political crimes that have a major impact on the state of the nation or state.
But, when the same politicians accept funds from lobbying organizations and major campaign contributors, then adapt their votes or apply their power in order to “repay” their campaign contributors, this is not considered to be criminal activity. Such “pay to play” politics is considered to be corrupt and immoral activity in some cases, and just “business as usual” in others, but do not constitute political criminal activity.
Grave events, such as accidental mass killings of civilians during the process of combat, abuse of prisoners of war, or accidental release of weapons are considered to be malfeasance or bad actions by individuals, and are prosecuted as such. These are not political crimes.
Deliberate and willful acts of genocide, torture, denial of human and civil rights, however, are deemed to be criminal political activities in national and international law. Internationally, it is very difficult to prosecute such acts without successful military intervention, occupation, and prosecution in the international courts, as most politicians who order the acts simply award themselves the legal authority to do so, and place that umbrella of legal authority over all who were serving under them.