perpetrator n : someone who perpetrates wrongdoing [syn: culprit]
Police and reporters often incorrectly use the word the suspect when referring to the actor, or perpetrator of the offense (perp for short). The perpetrator is the robber, assailant, counterfeiter, etc.--the person who actually committed the crime. The distinction between suspect and perpetrator recognizes that the suspect has not been proven guilty. The suspect may be a different person from the perpetrator, or there may have been no actual crime.
A common error in police reports is a witness description of the suspect (no, the witness generally describes the perpetrator, but the mug shot is of the suspect). Frequently it is stated that police are looking for the suspect, when there is no suspect; very often it is impossible to tell from such a police report whether there is a suspect or not.
Possibly because of the misuse of suspect to mean perpetrator, police have begun to use person of interest to mean suspect.
Under the judicial systems of the U.S., once a decision is approved to arrest the suspect or bind him over for trial, either by a prosecutor issuing an information, a grand jury issuing a true bill or indictment, or a judge issuing an arrest warrant, the suspect can then be properly called a defendant, or the accused. Only after being convicted is the suspect properly called the perpetrator.
perpetrator in Estonian: Kahtlustatav
perpetrator in Indonesian: Tersangka
perpetrator in Dutch: Verdachte
perpetrator in Japanese: 被疑者
perpetrator in Polish: Podejrzany
perpetrator in Portuguese: Argiudo
perpetrator in Russian: Подозреваемый
perpetrator in Simple English: Suspect
perpetrator in Chinese: 犯罪嫌疑人