Simply put, a violent crime is part of the class of crimes that contain an element of violence. If you cause physical harm to another person then you can be charged with a violent crime. Threats of harm (especially ones that are immediate and cause genuine fear) can also constitute violent crimes in certain situations.
It is important to know what constitutes a violent crime and what happens after being charged with a violent crime. If you are facing criminal charges for a violent crime, being aware of possible punishments and defenses can help you prepare for your case.
What are Some Examples of Violent Crime?
It is usually easy to spot a violent crime due to the element of violence involved. Some examples are assault and battery, rape, murder, robbery, and domestic violence. Violent crimes can be considered a misdemeanor or felony. However, some crimes (like homicide) will always be considered to be a felony crime.
As noted above, threats of harm can also invoke violent crime status. This will be adequate as long as the victim has a reasonable apprehension that bodily injury will occur. For example, if someone was holding a knife four feet away from a person and said “I am going to stab you,” then that person could reasonably believe the threat would turn into physical violence. This could amount to charges of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
Also keep in mind that some unintentional acts can fall into the violent crime category. An example of this is homicide resulting from a DUI, which is when a drunk driver unintentionally kills someone due to their drunk driving. Whether this will be considered a violent crime will depend on the facts of your case and the jurisdiction.
What Happens After Being Charged With a Violent Crime?
If you are charged with a violent crime, then you will be arraigned and either given bail or be ordered to stay in jail for trial or until your case otherwise resolves. You will then proceed to trial where you can present your defense. A local criminal lawyer can help with this and may even be able to negotiate a plea on your behalf.
If the case goes to trial and you are convicted of a violent crime, then you will then proceed to the sentencing phase where you will face your punishment from the judge.
What are Potential Punishments for Violent Crimes?
Some potential punishments for violent crimes are prison time, fines, probation, loss of the privilege to carry a firearm, restitution, and even the death penalty. This list is not exclusive and will depend on the facts of your specific case.
If you are convicted of a violent crime, your sentence will vary based on several factors, one being the nature of the crime. For example, you will receive a harsher sentence for homicide than you would for an armed robbery, especially if you are a first time offender and you did not actually harm anyone during the robbery. If you were convicted of rape, then one of your punishments would be to stay on the sex-offender registry.
Another factor in your sentencing will be whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony, as misdemeanors will carry lesser sentences than felonies. Your sentencing judge’s preferences will also play a factor, especially if there are different levels of punishment available under that law. For example, if the punishment for the crime ranges from one to ten years of jail time, then the judge may award a lesser sentence if they have a history of cutting breaks to first time offenders.
Also keep in mind that your sentence will align with what your state law allows as punishment for the crime. This means that if the punishment is not allowed under the law, then you cannot receive it. A good example is capital punishment, which is only allowed in twenty-eight states for extremely violent crimes, like murder.
Are There Any Defenses to Violent Crimes?
Various defenses may be available for violent crimes. This will again depend on the nature of the crime, the facts of your case, your criminal history, and state law. Some potential defenses include:
- Lack of Intent: For violent crime charges to hold up in court, the prosecution will generally need to prove that you intended to cause the harm.
- However, this defense is difficult to prove and may not drop the charges completely, if successful. Insanity or intoxication are examples of lack of intent defenses.
- Self-Defense: If the defendant was trying to defend themselves against physical harm by the victim, they may be able to use this defense.
- Mistake of Fact: if the defendant can prove there was no violence involved in the crime or that they were not the person who committed the crime, this defense may be available.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am Charged With a Violent Crime?
If you are charged with a violent crime, you should consult a criminal defense lawyer in your area to help with your case. A lawyer can review the facts to see if there are any possible defenses, represent you in court, try to get the charges dropped or negotiate a plea deal, and advise you on the best overall strategy for your case.