State laws differ in terms of how they classify violent and non-violent crimes. Generally speaking, violent crimes or violent criminal offenses involve the use of force and/or injury to the body of another person. The seriousness of a violent crime is typically determined by the degree of physical harm caused to the victim.
An example of this would be how some states may impose more severe penalties for crimes which result in serious bodily harm or serious bodily injury. The seriousness of the crime may be further raised by the use of a weapon, especially if that weapon is classified as a deadly weapon.
Some crimes may qualify as violent crimes even if the victim was not injured. An example of this would be how many crimes involving the threat of injury to a person may qualify as a violent crime, such as with assault crimes. The victim’s characteristics is another example of what could alter the seriousness of the charges. An example of this would be if the victim was a police officer, a woman, or a child. The defendant will likely be subject to increased charges due to the characteristics of their victim.
Simply put, a violent crime belongs to the class of crimes containing some element of violence. Threats of harm, especially when immediate and cause genuine fear, can also be considered violent crimes under specific circumstances. Violent crimes are often set in contrast to other types of crime, such as property crime, because the other party does not get injured.
Different violent crime categories vary based on jurisdiction. However, in general, violent crimes include:
- Assault and/or battery;
- Robbery, which can be defined as theft combined with the use of force;
- Various types of homicides, including murder and manslaughter;
- Domestic violence;
- Sexual assault and abuse crimes;
- False imprisonment; and
- Armed robbery.
Violent crimes may be considered a misdemeanor or felony. However, there are some crimes such as homicide that will always be considered a felony crime. Threats of harm may also constitute violent crime status, as long as the victim has a reasonable apprehension that bodily injury will occur.
Some unintentional acts may be categorized as violent crime. An example of this would be homicide resulting from a DUI, which occurs when a drunk driver unintentionally kills someone because of their drunk driving. Whether this will be categorized as a violent crime will rely heavily on the facts of your case, along with the jurisdiction.
What Happens After Being Charged With a Violent Crime?
If you are charged with a violent crime, the next step in the process is that you will be arraigned. Additionally, you will either post bail, or you will be ordered to stay in jail until your trial. Or, until your case otherwise resolves, whichever happens first. You will then proceed to trial, where you will present your defense if you and your attorney have determined that this would be the best way to proceed. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea on your behalf.
If the case goes to trial and you are convicted of a violent crime, you would then proceed to the sentencing phase. Criminal sentencing varies throughout the states; generally speaking, you will proceed to find out what the legal punishment for your behavior will be. This is known as the sentencing phase, and is different from the portion of the trial that determines guilt or innocence. Because there are varying levels of crimes from minor infractions to aggravated felonies, there are also many different levels of potential criminal sentences.
Regardless of how the process may differ on the state level, the way sentencing works throughout the U.S. on the federal level is that following a criminal conviction, there will be a penalty.
What Are the Penalties for Violent Crime?
As previously mentioned, penalties under violent crime law largely depend on the seriousness of the charges. This most often includes:
- The nature of the crime;
- The extent of the other person’s injuries;
- The presence of aggravating factors, such as the use of a deadly weapon; and
- The victim’s characteristics.
More serious felony charges, such as murder or kidnapping, commonly result in a prison sentence of five to ten years (or more), along with heavier criminal fines. Less serious crimes, such as simple battery, may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. This would result in jail time of less than one year, along with some lighter criminal fines.
It is important to note that your sentence will match what your state law allows as punishment for the crime. What this means is that if the punishment is not allowed under the law, then you cannot receive it. An example of this would be capital punishment, which is only allowed in twenty-eight states for extremely violent crimes such as murder. Some other punishments include the loss of the right to bear arms, and payment of restitution.
Am I Eligible for Parole or Probation for a Violent Criminal Offense?
Parole is a part of criminal sentencing involving the early release of a defendant. State laws vary regarding parole; however, the convicted person must usually serve at least one third of their original sentence in order to be eligible for parole. The released person, or “parolee” can then re-enter society.
This is often in a limited way and under the supervision of a parole officer. The parolee may need to meet certain requirements, such as staying out of legal trouble, meeting regularly with their parole officer, and performing community service acts. Parole is common for less serious crimes and for juvenile offenders, and is often similar to probation.
Supervised probation is an alternative form of sentencing, allowing convicted offenders to avoid jail time. Instead of going to jail, they must follow a strict set of rules. These rules vary widely from case to case, but often include:
- Maintaining and adhering to a curfew;
- Keeping a job; and
- Prohibition from associating with known criminals.
If these rules are violated, the offender may be sent to prison.
While supervised probation and parole are similar, they do have some differences. The most notable difference is that parole involves supervision of a person who has been released from jail, after they have already served some or most of their sentence. Parole may be issued before the defendant has served their sentence. Both probation and parole are not available for all types of charges.
Once again, whether a person is eligible for parole or probation will be determined by each state’s laws regarding the matter. Generally speaking, violent crimes are not eligible for parole or probation.
Are There Any Legal Defenses for Committing a Violent Crime?
What legal defenses are available for committing a violent crime vary by state, as well as the facts of your case and your criminal history. However, some common potential defenses include:
- Lack of Intent: The prosecution generally must prove that you intended to cause the harm. However, this defense is difficult to prove and may not drop the charges completely. Insanity or intoxication are two examples of lack of intent defenses;
- Self-Defense: Self-defense is often raised in relation to violent crime charges. In order for a defendant to be able to rely on a self-defense argument, it must be proven that the defendant did not start the confrontation. Additionally, the defendant must show that they used no more than the same amount of force that was used against them; and
- Mistake of Fact: If the defendant proves that there was no violence involved in the crime, or that they were not the person who actually committed the crime, this defense may be available.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Criminal Charges?
If you are facing criminal charges, you should consult with a local criminal lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced and local criminal defense attorney will best understand your state’s laws, and how they will affect your case.
They will determine if any legal defenses are available to you, and will present that defense during your trial. An attorney can also represent you in court, as needed, while working to protect your rights and potentially reduce your sentence.