Non-Violent vs. Violent Crimes

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 What Are Non Violent Crimes?

Non violent crimes are generally defined as crimes that do not involve the use of any force or injury to another person. As such, this can include a considerable range of different crimes, citations, and legal violations. In terms of violent crimes, the penalties are most commonly based on the seriousness of the injuries to the victim. However, in terms of non-violent crimes, the seriousness of the crime is generally measured in terms of economic damage and/or loss to the victim.

The majority of non violent crimes involve some sort of property crime, such as property damage or theft. Non violent crimes can often involve various violations of ordinances and rules, such as traffic rule violations. Additionally, state laws will vary in terms of how they classify violent vs. nonviolent 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 order to commit the crime. As such, the seriousness of a violent crime is generally determined by the degree of physical harm caused to the victim.

An example of this would be how some states may impose considerably more severe penalties for crimes resulting in serious bodily harm or serious bodily injury. Additionally, the use of a weapon can increase the seriousness of the crime, especially if the weapon is classified as a deadly weapon.

It is important to note that some crimes can be categorized as violent crimes even if the victim was not injured. An example of this would be how many crimes that involve the threat of injury to a person may qualify as a violent crime, such as with assault crimes.

Additionally, the characteristics of the victim may influence the seriousness of the charges. Examples of such victims include, but may not be limited to a:

  • Police officer;
  • Woman;
  • Child; or
  • Elderly person.

What Are Some Common Examples Of Both Violent And Nonviolent Crimes?

To reiterate, non-violent crimes can cover a broad range of different offenses. These crimes generally involve some sort of “property crime” which results in damage to another person’s property.

Some examples of the more common non-violent offenses and crimes include, but may not be limited to:

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

Violent crimes are also referred to as “offenses against the person” in many jurisdictions. What this means is that the physical body of another person was harmed during the course of the crime being committed. Some of the most common examples of violent offenses include, but may not be limited to:

To reiterate, some non-violent crimes begin non-violent but may be raised to a level of violence. An example of this would be how it is common for fraud, which is a non-violent crime, to involve some kind of violence or injury. This can especially happen if the fraud was forced under the threat of harm or coercion to the victim. Forcing someone to sign a contract may become violent if it is done at gunpoint, or under the threat of harm to the victim or their loved ones.

Are The Legal Penalties Different For Violent And Nonviolent Crimes?

Generally speaking, violent crimes carry stiffer penalties when compared to nonviolent crimes. However, there are some specific non-violent crimes that can also result in severe legal consequences, similar to those for violent crimes. This will largely depend on the type of crime that was committed, as well as state laws, due to the fact that punishments are state-specific and will vary from region to region in the United States.

Non-violent crimes are generally punishable by some type of fine or short jail sentence. These fines or sentences may increase with the severity of the non-violent crime. As previously discussed, this will vary widely depending on the type of crime that was involved and the circumstances surrounding the specific crime. Legal penalties will also differ according to whether the offense is considered to be a misdemeanor or a felony crime.

What Are Some Criminal Defenses?

A person who is accused of and charged with committing a crime becomes a criminal defendant. They are presumed to be innocent until the government proves that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, a defense which excuses or justifies their criminal behavior can sometimes prevent a criminal conviction, or reduce a criminal charge.

Available defenses will vary based on the specifics of each case. Some general examples of criminal defenses include:

  • Self Defense: A self-defense justification may be allowed when the defendant was not the aggressor, their reaction was a reasonable response to a threat, and they actually and reasonably believed that they were in danger of imminent serious bodily injury or death. This can be challenging to prove, especially when witness testimony conflicts with the defendant’s testimony. If fully proven, self-defense will completely absolve the defendant of the crime that they committed;
  • Duress And/Or Necessity: Most states recognize duress and necessity defenses for crimes that were committed under the threat of death or serious bodily injury. An example of this would be how if someone forces someone else to steal a car by threatening them with a gun to the head, duress could be asserted in response to a charge of auto theft.
    • Necessity, which is also known as the lesser harm defense, might suffice if the defendant broke into a mountain cabin to prevent from freezing to death in a blizzard. These defenses are highly uncommon, although a criminal defendant has a complete defense if proven;
  • Insanity: Generally speaking, mental disease or defect is not a defense. However, if the defendant suffered from a severe mental illness and/or defect at the time of commission of the offense, the insanity defense may prevent them from serving an incarceration sentence.
    • Proving insanity requires clear and competent expert testimony; additionally, those who successfully plead insanity are not set free. They are sent to medical facilities in order to be treated, and are not released until they are said to regain sanity. In some states, a defendant may plead “diminished capacity” as a defense. Essentially, this states that there are some mental diseases and defects that do not affect people sufficiently enough to make them “insane,” but the law recognizes them all the same; and/or
  • Intoxication: Intoxication generally does not provide a defense to criminal charges, especially if the defendant became intoxicated voluntarily. In some cases, where the defense can prove that the influence of drugs or alcohol rendered the defendant unable to be guilty of intentionally committing the crime due to their diminished capacity, intoxication may justify a reduced charge.
    • Alternatively, intoxication may provide a total defense for a defendant who became involuntarily intoxicated. An example of this would be if they committed a crime as a result of being unknowingly drugged, or forced to consume large amounts of alcohol.

Do I Need An Attorney For Nonviolent Or Violent Crimes?

If you are being charged with a crime, whether violent or nonviolent, you should consult with an area criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

An experienced and local criminal defense lawyer can protect your rights and help you understand your legal options according to your state’s specific criminal laws. Additionally, they will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, while determining whether there are any defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case.

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