Illicit vs. Illegal

Difference Between Illicit and Illegal

We hear and see the word illicit and illegal in TV news and newspapers very often. Illegal refers to the behavior which is not acceptable by the laws of a country. The word can be understood easily. But the word illicit is misunderstood many a times. It is similar to illegal as far as its meaning is concerned. However, there are a number of differences between the two words.

All societies have their rules and regulations. The behavior of people which is not adhered to the existing rules of that society is not desirable. No behavior was considered illegal and illicit when societies did not exist. But in modern days every society has its own judicial system which describes in clear manner the behaviors which are illegal and illicit. A person is punished if he goes beyond the existing rules of the society. Such behavior is considered to be defiant. It is an illegal behavior in legal terms. Such person gets punishment as specified in the legal system of the country. Common illegal activities include robbery, theft, fraud, murder, corruption, earning black money etc.

Illicit behavior too is against the laws of a country. Illicit act is secretly done and people engaged in it think that they will manipulate the situation and not get the punishment. Example of illicit act is the extramarital affair of a married person to another married or unmarried woman. When the relationship becomes known, it causes a lot of problem to the person concerned. The situation is worst when it is known to his wife. Smuggling of banned drug is another example of illicit activity.

It is not necessary that a behavior which is illicit and illegal in country would necessarily be so in another country. For example, nuclear proliferation program may be illegal in a country while some countries do not think it illegal. Trafficking of women for sex is prohibited yet the business is going on in most of the countries.

Thus we see that difference between illicit and illegal is slight. The main difference is that illegal is something openly done knowing that punishment is impending while illicit is a secretive action and the person involves in it think that he will escape by manipulation.


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