In flagrante delicto

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in Flagranti, Antwerp 1607

In flagrante delicto (Latin for "in blazing offence") or sometimes simply in flagrante ("in blazing") is a legal term used to indicate that a criminal has been caught in the act of committing an offence (compare corpus delicti). The colloquial "caught red-handed" and "caught rapid" are English equivalents.[1][2]

Aside from the legal meaning, the Latin term is often used colloquially as a euphemism for someone being caught in the midst of sexual activity.[3][4]


The phrase combines the present active participle flagrāns (flaming or blazing) with the noun dēlictum (offence, misdeed, or crime). In this term the Latin preposition in, not indicating motion, takes the ablative. The closest literal translation would be "in blazing offence", where "blazing" is a metaphor for vigorous, highly visible action.


Latin America[edit]

In many Latin American countries, being caught in flagrante (Spanish: en flagrancia, Portuguese: em flagrante) is a common legal requirement for both detention[5] and search and seizure.[6][7] Naturally, being caught in flagrante makes convictions easier to obtain; in some jurisdictions where the police are not adept at investigation and the use of forensic science is not widespread, it may be difficult to get a conviction any other way.[8] On occasion, governments with such constitutional requirements have been accused of stretching the definition of in flagrante in order to carry out illegal arrests.[5][9] In Brazil, a member of the National Congress cannot be arrested unless caught in flagrante delicto of a non-bailable crime, and whether or not a member's detention should continue is decided by their parliamentary peers.[10]


In Japan, the phrase's translation, Genkōhan (現行犯), is used to refer to citizen's arrest, and is listed under Section 213 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as such.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jennifer Speake, ed. (1999). The Oxford Essential Dictionary of Foreign Terms in English. Berkley Books, Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Jonathan Law & Elizabeth A. Martin (2009). A Dictionary of Law. Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ "in flagrante". Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2012. if somebody is found or caught in flagrante, they are discovered doing something that they should not be doing, especially having sex
  4. ^ "in flagrante delicto". Merriam-Webster. 2 : in the midst of sexual activity
  5. ^ a b Yamin, Alicia; Garcia, Pilar (1 July 1999). "The Absence of the Rule of Law in Mexico: Diagnosis and Implications for a Mexican Transition to Democracy". Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review. 21 (3): 467. ISSN 0277-5417.
  6. ^ Graham, Luis Enrique; Ramos, Carlos (2019). Villa, Vanessa Pinto (ed.). Latin American investigations guide (PDF). Hogan Lovells. p. 120.
  7. ^ Rosenn, Keith (1 July 1992). "A Comparison of the Protection of Individual Rights in the New Constitutions of Colombia and Brazil". University of Miami Inter-American Law Review. 23 (3): 667 (detention), 677 (search and seizure).
  8. ^ Marcella, Gabriel (December 2009). "DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND THE RULE OF LAW : LESSONS FROM COLOMBIA". Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College: 30.
  9. ^ José Miguel Vivanco [@JMVivancoHRW] (25 May 2020). "El gobierno de Bolivia admite que ordenó el arresto de un juez "en flagrante" tras decretar una liberación condicional. Por esa lógica, podrá encerrar a todo juez que emita una decisión que no le guste siempre que actúe velozmente para agarrarlo "en flagrante". Un desvarío" (Tweet) (in Spanish). Retrieved 20 July 2020 – via Twitter.Tweet contains scan of official communication (in Spanish) of the Government of Bolivia.
  10. ^ Rosenn, Keith (1 January 2011). "Procedural Protection of Constitutional Rights in Brazil". Am. J. Comp. L. 59 (4): 1020. doi:10.5131/AJCL.2010.0033.

External links[edit]