The term violent crime refers to crimes that involve inflicting physical harm on another person, or threatening to inflict physical harm on them. It generally refers to harm that intentionally inflicted, as opposed to accidentally. In some cases, the violence utilized in the violent crime is a means to achieving some other criminal purpose. An example of this would be theft.
How are they Different From Non-Violent Crimes?
Violent crimes or violent criminal offenses typically involve the use of force or injury to another person. As such, the seriousness of a violent crime could be determined by the degree of physical harm caused to the victim. Some states may have more severe penalties for crimes that result in serious bodily harm or injury.
Additionally, using a weapon to commit the crime could increase the seriousness of the crime, especially if that weapon is classified as a deadly weapon. The characteristics of the victim may also influence the seriousness of the charges. If a police officer, elderly person, or child was the victim of the violent crime, the defendant will most likely face increased charges.
Some crimes may be considered violent crimes even if the crime’s victim was not injured. An example of this would be crimes that involve the threat of injury to a person, such as assault crimes.
Non-violent crimes are those that do not utilize any force or injury against another person, the seriousness of which is generally measured in terms of economic damage or loss to the victim. Non-violent crimes typically involve some sort of property crime, such as property damage. State laws may vary in regards to what they classify as violent crimes vs. non-violent crimes.
What are Some Examples of Violent Crimes?
As previously mentioned, state laws regarding what constitutes a violent crime may vary from state to state. In general, some examples of violent crimes include:
- Assault and battery;
- Aggravated assault and battery;
- Various types of homicide crimes including manslaughter and murder;
- Sexual assault crimes;
- Kidnapping; and
- Gang violence.
Some unintentionally violent acts may result in a violent end. An example of this would be a DUI homicide. The person driving under the influence may not have intended to hurt anyone with their actions, but unintentionally kills an innocent driver or passenger.
Although not always classified as a violent crime, a DUI could ultimately lead to similar sentencing. Further, there may be various degrees for each of these crimes. An example of this would be simple battery, aggravated battery, sexual battery, and other variations of the same central crime.
States commonly categorize violent crimes according to misdemeanor or felony charges. Misdemeanor violent crimes would involve minor injuries or harm to the plaintiff, whereas felony violent crimes generally involve severe bodily injury, intent to kill, or the use of a deadly weapon.
What are the Legal Penalties for Violent Crime?
As previously mentioned, the seriousness of the crime itself will be taken into consideration when determining legal penalties for violent crimes. This generally includes the nature of the crime as well as the extent of the victim’s injuries. Less serious violent crimes will likely be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, which generally results in jail time of no more than one year and some criminal fines.
More serious felony violent crime charges, such as murder or kidnapping, could result in a prison sentence of five to ten years or more. Additionally, heavier criminal fines could be ordered. Aggravating factors such as the use of a deadly weapon can further increase the criminal penalties and consequences.
What are Some Defenses for a Violent Crime?
Defenses to violent crimes vary based on the specifics of each case, as well as differing criminal statutes. In general, the following are some of the most common defenses to violent crimes:
- Self-Defense: This would refer to the defendant acting in order to defend themselves from bodily harm due to the other person’s attack. In order for self-defense to be an effective defense, the defendant’s use of force must be proportionate to the threat posed by the plaintiff;
- Mistake of Fact: An example of a mistake of fact would be if the person’s identity was suspect, or if no violence was actually involved; and
- Intoxication: Although intoxication is a common and credible defense, it can be difficult to prove, and likely will not completely absolve the defendant. Both voluntary and involuntary intoxication could reduce the punishment for specific intent crimes.
Do I Need an Attorney for Violent Crimes?
If you are being accused of committing a violent crime, you should immediately consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be aware of your state’s statutes regarding the matter, and can work to protect your rights. Additionally, the attorney can determine if there are any defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case. Finally, an attorney can represent you in court as needed.