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Non-Violent vs. Violent Crimes

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What Are Non-Violent Crimes?

Non-violent crimes are those crimes that do not involve the use of any force or injury to another person. The seriousness of a non-violent crime 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 larceny or theft.

What Are Violent Crimes?

Violent crimes or violent offenses involve the use of force or injury to the body of another person. The seriousness of a violent crime is usually determined by the degree of physical harm caused to the victim. The use of a weapon can raise the seriousness of the crime.

Some crimes are classified as violent crimes even if the victim was not injured. For example, crimes that involve the threat of injury to a person may qualify as a violent crime. Moreover, 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 violence, the crime will likely be subject to increased charges.

What Are Some Examples of Non-Violent and Violent Crimes?

Non-violent crimes can cover a broad spectrum of offenses. They usually involve some sort of “property crime” resulting in damage to another person’s property.

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

  • Most property crimes, such as theft, embezzlement, receipt of stolen goods, and arson of personal property
  • Fraud, tax crimes, other forms of white collar crime
  • Drug and alcohol-related crimes
  • Prostitution
  • Racketeering and gambling
  • Bribery

Violent crimes are also called “offenses against the person”, meaning that the physical body of another person was harmed. Common violent offenses include:

Some non-violent crimes are often raised to a level of violence. For example, it is common for fraud, a non-violent crime, to involve some form of violence. This can happen if the fraud was forced under threat of harm or coercion. For instance, a non-violent crime, such as forcing someone to sign a contract, may become violent 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 vs. Non-Violent Crimes?

Both non-violent crimes and violent crimes can result in serious legal consequences. In general, violent crimes usually carry stiffer penalties. However, there are some non-violent crimes that are also punished very strictly.

Non-violent crimes are usually punishable by a fine or short jail sentence. The fines or incarceration sentence may increase with the severity of the non-violent crime.

Are There Defenses Available?

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 self-defense or consent, can drastically reduce or even remove the legal penalties associated with a crime.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

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

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 02-13-2018 10:40 PM PST

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