The state laws which govern the classification of violent and non-violent crimes may vary by jurisdiction. In general, violent crimes, also called violent criminal offenses, involve the use of force and/or injury to the body of another individual.

The seriousness of a violent crime is usually determined by the degree of physical harm which was caused to the victim. An example of this classification system is how certain states may impose more severe penalties for offense which result in serious bodily harm or serious bodily injury.

The seriousness of a criminal offense may be further elevated by the use of a weapon, especially if that weapon is considered a deadly weapon. Certain crimes may qualify as violent crimes even if a victim was not injured.

For example, numerous crimes involving the threat of injury to an individual qualify as violent crimes, including assault crimes. The characteristics of the victim may also be a factor that alters the seriousness of the charges.

For example, if a victim is a police officer, a woman, or a small child. A defendant may be subject to increased charges depending upon the characteristics of their victim.

In the most simple terms, violent crimes belong to a class of crimes that involve some element of violence. A threat of harm, especially when the threat is immediate and causes genuine fear, may also be considered a violent crime under specific circumstances.

A violent crime is typically set in contrast to other categories of crimes, such as property crimes, where the other party does not get injured. What is considered a violent crime and the category it is placed in may vary by jurisdiction.

In general, however, the category of violent crime will include:

  • Assault and/or battery;
  • Robbery, which is typically be defined as theft that is combined with the use of force;
  • Various types of homicides, which includes murder and manslaughter;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Domestic violence;
  • Sexual assault and abuse crimes;
  • False imprisonment; and
  • Armed robbery.

A violent crime may be classified as a misdemeanor or as a felony. There are, however, certain crimes, such as homicide, that will always be classified as felony offenses.

The threat of harm can also constitute a violent crime, so long as a victim has a reasonable apprehension that bodily injury will occur. There are also some unintentional acts which may be categorized as violent crimes.

For example, a homicide which results from a DUI is an unintentional act which may be considered a violent crime. This offense occurs when a drunk driver unintentionally kills another individual due to their drunk driving.

Whether or not this offense is categorized as a violent crime will depend upon the facts of the case as well as the laws of the jurisdiction.

What Happens After Being Charged with a Violent Crime?

If an individual is charged with a violent crime, the next step in the legal process is that the individual will be arraigned. In addition, the individual will either post bail or will be required to remain in jail until their trial or until their case is resolved in some other manner, such as a plea deal.

The individual will then proceed to trial, where they will present their defense if they and their attorney have determined that is the best course of action for their case. It is important to be aware that, in some cases, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal on the individual’s behalf.

If the case proceeds to trial and the individual is convicted to a violent crime, they would proceed on to the sentencing phase. Criminal sentencing varies by state.

However, in general, the defendant will proceed to find out what the legal consequences for their behavior will be. The sentencing phase is different from the trial phase, which is where the defendant’s guilt or innocence is determined.

Due to the varying levels of criminal offense, from minor infractions to aggravated felons, there are also numerous different levels of potential criminal sentences. Regardless of how the process differs on the state level, on the federal level throughout the United States, sentencing follows a criminal conviction.

What Are the Penalties for Violent Crime?

As previously noted, the penalties for violent crimes depend largely upon the seriousness of the charges. Factors which determine the seriousness of the offense often include:

  • The nature of the crime;
  • The extent of the other person’s injuries;
  • The presence of an aggravating factor, for example, the use of a deadly weapon; and
  • The victim’s characteristics.

More serious felony charges, for example, murder and kidnapping, will typically result in a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years or more, in addition to hefty criminal fines. Less serious crimes, including simple battery, may be prosecuted as misdemeanors.

A misdemeanor conviction would result in jail time of less than one year in addition to less substantial criminal fines. It is important to note that a defendant’s sentence will match what their state law allows as punishment for the offense. This means that if a punishment is not permitted under the law, a defendant cannot receive it.

For example, capital punishment is only permitted in 28 states and only for extremely violent crimes, including murder. Other types of punishments may include the loss of the right to own or possess a firearm and being required to pay restitution.

What is the Law Enforcement Act of 1994?

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 was written by Senator Joe Biden, passed by Congress, and enacted by President Bill Clinton. This act allocated billions of dollars for the purpose of hiring more law enforcement officers and expanding prison systems.

This act was created partly in response to events including the mass shootings in California, Waco, Texas, and other locations. Additionally crimes were classified under federal law as death penalty offense.

Other types of crimes were also classified and defined, including:

  • Crimes related to gang activity;
  • Sex crimes; and
  • Hate crimes.

This act also funded an increase in crime prevention programs, including those intended to counteract violence against women. The act eliminated pell grants for inmates as well as other prisoner education programs.

In addition, there were boot-camp style institutions established for young individuals. Under this act, the populations of prisons increased significantly and incidents of crime decreased.
Recently, there has been support for reinstating Pell grants for inmates as well as prison education programs.

Which Crimes Does the Law Enforcement Act Regulate?

There are several crimes that were regulated under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, including:

  • The national sex offender registry was created;
  • The federal assault weapons ban made it illegal to produce certain kinds of semi-automatic gun weapons;
  • Federal release inmates received mandatory drug testing;
  • A “Three Strikes You’re Out” program increased sentences and penalties for repeat offenders; and
  • Convicted felons were prohibited from working in insurance.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Any individual who has been charged with a crime should consult with a criminal defense attorney who can represent their interests. A criminal defense lawyer is essential for presenting your best case in potential plea agreements as well as in court.