Non-violent crimes may be defined as those crimes that do not involve the use of any force or injury to another person. This can include a whole range of different crimes, citations, and legal violations. With violent crimes, the penalties are usually based on the seriousness of the injuries to the victim. But with non-violent crimes, the seriousness is usually measured in terms of economic damage or loss to the victim. 

Most non-violent crimes involve some sort of property crime such as property damage or theft. They can often involve various violations of ordinances and rules, such as traffic rule violations and other types of misconduct. State laws will vary with regard to how they classify violent vs. non-violent crimes. 

What are Violent Crimes?

Violent crimes or violent criminal offenses generally involve the use of force or injury to the body of another person. In such cases, the seriousness of a violent crime is usually determined by the degree of physical harm caused to the victim. 

For instance, some states may impose more severe penalties for crimes resulting in serious bodily harm or serious bodily injury. The use of a weapon can raise the seriousness of the crime, especially if it is classified as a deadly weapon.

Some crimes can be categorized as violent crimes even if the victim was not injured. For example, many crimes that involve the threat of injury to a person may qualify as a violent crime (such as with assault crimes). 

In addition, the characteristics of the victim may alter the seriousness of the charges. For example, if a police officer, woman, or child was the victim of the violent crime, then the defendant will likely be subject to increased charges.

What are Common Examples of Non-Violent and Violent Crimes?

Non-violent crimes can cover a broad range of different offenses. They usually involve some sort of “property crime” resulting in damage to another person’s property (though of course they can involve several other types of crimes).

Some of the more common non-violent offenses and crimes may include:

  • Most property crimes, such as theft, larceny, embezzlement, receipt of stolen goods, and arson of personal property
  • Contract crimes, fraud, tax crimes, other forms of white collar crime
  • Various drug and alcohol-related crimes;
  • Prostitution;
  • Racketeering and gambling;
  • Bribery; 
  • Numerous types of traffic offenses, such as speeding; and
  • Various other types of crimes.

Violent crimes are also called “offenses against the person” in many jurisdictions. This means that the physical body of another person was harmed. Common examples of violent offenses include:

  • Assault and battery;
  • Homicides;
  • Domestic violence;
  • Robbery;
  • Sexual assault and abuse;
  • False imprisonment; and
  • Various other crimes

Some non-violent crimes can often start off in a non-violent way, but then may be raised to a level of violence. For example, it is common for fraud, a non-violent crime, to involve some form of violence or injury. This can happen if the fraud was forced under threat of harm or coercion to the victim. 

For instance, a non-violent crime, such as forcing someone to sign a contract, may become violent in some cases. An example of this is if it is done at gunpoint or under threat of harm to them or their loved ones. 

Are the Legal Punishments Different for Violent Crimes and Non-Violent Crimes?

Both non-violent crimes and violent crimes can result in serious criminal consequences. Generally speaking, violent crimes usually carry stiffer penalties. However, there are some non-violent crimes that can also result in severe legal consequences. These all depend on the type of crime involved as well as state laws (punishments are state-specific and will vary from region to region in the U.S.).

Non-violent crimes are usually punishable by some type of fine or short jail sentence. The fines or sentences may increase with the severity of the non-violent crime. Again, this will vary widely depending on the type of crime involved and the circumstances surrounding the crime.

Are there Defenses Available for Violent and Non-violent Crimes?

Criminal defenses may be available for the defendant in both violent and non-violent crimes, but will vary depending on the specific facts of any given case. A properly raised defense, such as consent, can drastically reduce or even remove the legal penalties associated with a crime. Some defenses may be more common than others. For instance self-defense is a commonly-raised defense for many types of violent crimes. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Non-violent or Violent Crimes?

If you are facing criminal charges, you have the right to obtain a criminal attorney. A criminal defense lawyer in your area can help represent you in court, whether you are facing charges for a violent offense or a non-violent offense. Criminal laws may be complex and will vary widely by state, so you may wish to ask a lawyer if you have questions regarding the laws of your jurisdiction.