What Types of Crimes Are There?

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 What Is Criminal Law? What Are Crimes?

There are two main types of law in the United States: civil and criminal law. Criminal law addresses behavior that is considered an offense against society, the state, or the public, regardless of whether the victim is an individual or a group. It is a body of federal and state laws that prohibit behavior deemed harmful by the government.

Criminal law defines crimes. Those who engage in behaviors that are harmful to society may be found guilty of committing crimes. Criminal cases are usually prosecuted in criminal courts. By being sentenced to jail or prison, someone convicted of a crime may lose their personal freedoms and privileges.

What Types of Crimes Are There?

Every state has different criminal law statutes that outline the different types of crimes and criminal charges. The subject matter of a crime is often used to organize crimes. There are categories such as:

There can be many subcategories within each category, such as 1st and 2nd-degree murder, theft, and grand theft. In addition, juvenile offenses are prosecuted differently than adult offenses.

  • Assault and Battery: Assault refers to the intentional creation of a reasonable apprehension of harm. Another way of putting it is that assault occurs when one person causes another person to fear harm. Many states combine assault and battery into one crime called “assault and battery.” However, assault and battery are most commonly considered two separate personal crimes.
    • Battery refers to the unauthorized application of force against another person’s body. This results in offensive touching or actual physical injury. As some jurisdictions define assault as attempted but failed battery, battery charges are commonly grouped with assault to form the single charge of assault and battery;
  • False Imprisonment: False imprisonment refers to one person forcibly restraining another person, against their will, with a risk of being seriously injured or killed. False imprisonment is when someone intentionally restricts another individual’s freedom or movement without their consent;
  • Kidnapping: Kidnapping is defined as the carrying away or confinement of a person by force or deception without that person’s consent. Kidnapping is the act of seizing and detaining a person without their consent with the intent of carrying them away at a later time, holding them for ransom, etc.
  • Homicide: Homicide includes crimes such as first and second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, vehicular homicide; and
  • Rape: Rape also includes statutory rape and sexual assault.

A property crime does not necessarily involve harming another person. This type of crime involves interfering with another person’s right to use and enjoy their own property. Property crimes include, but are not limited to:

  • Theft: Larceny refers to a type of theft in which a person takes another person’s property and carries it away, with the intent to deprive the legal owner of their property permanently. Robbery is known as theft by force and may also be considered a personal crime as it often results in physical and mental harm. Burglary occurs when a person breaks and enters a home or building, intending to commit a crime. Burglaries are generally thefts, but assaults or arsons can also qualify as burglaries;
  • Arson: Arson is the willful and malicious burning or charring of another person’s property or structure;
  • White-Collar Crimes: Embezzlement refers to a type of white-collar crime in which a person entrusted with the finances of another person or business illegally takes that money for their own personal use. Forgery is another example of a white-collar property crime because it is the creation, alteration, forging, or imitation of any document with the intent to defraud another person of their property;
  • False Pretenses: False pretenses refer to a combination of fraud and larceny, in which a person misrepresents to obtain the property of another; and
  • Receipt of Stolen Goods: It is a crime to receive or purchase property that you know or believe to be stolen or otherwise obtained through theft.

Inchoate crimes are those that have been initiated but not completed. To commit a crime, one would have to take substantial steps towards completing it rather than merely intending to do so.

Here are a few examples of inchoate crimes:

  • “Attempted” crimes, such as attempted robbery, attempted murder, etc.;
  • Solicitation: Crimes involving requesting, asking, hiring, commanding, or encouraging someone else to commit a crime; and
  • Conspiracy: Crimes involving multiple actors coming together to engage in criminal activity.

A statutory crime is a violation of a specific state or federal statute. The offenses may be either property-related or personal-related. DUIs or selling alcohol to minors are examples of alcohol-related crimes.

Are There Different Categories of Seriousness for Crimes?

A crime is generally classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony based on its severity.

Typically, misdemeanors are less serious crimes such as shoplifting. Generally, misdemeanors carry a fine of up to $1,000 with no more than one year in jail if any jail time is required.

Crimes classified as felonies are considered to be more serious, such as kidnapping, and carry heavier punishments. In addition to higher fines, felonies are generally punished with a prison sentence of one year or more, usually in state prison.

State laws can categorize crimes, such as violent crimes or nonviolent crimes. Criminal intent can be used to categorize crimes. The state of mind required to prove guilt differentiates General Intent Crimes from Specific Intent Crimes.

What Are the Typical Penalties for Crimes?

Crimes are punished according to their severity. In most jurisdictions, misdemeanor crimes are distinguished from felony crimes. Usually, these charges are punishable by a short jail sentence and sometimes a criminal fine. A maximum of one year is usually a jail sentence. Simple assault, common theft, and battery are examples of misdemeanors.

The more serious crimes are classified as felonies. The criminal fines and sentences in a prison facility are higher than those in a county or local jail facility. In many cases, the prison sentences range between more than one year and 10 or 20 years, or even life imprisonment.

Infractions and citations are the least serious types of crimes. No jail time is usually served for these offenses, just a warning, and a small fine. Trespassing and alcohol crimes are examples of such violations.

What Are Criminal Defenses?

Criminal defenses may allow a person to have their sentences reduced or the charges dropped, even though they may have committed a criminal act. As a result of various circumstances, criminal defense is used to justify a person’s actions. There are many common criminal defenses, including intoxication, necessity, duress, and insanity.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Criminal Laws?

Criminal laws can be complex and difficult to understand. They may also vary greatly from area to area. It’s in your best interests to hire your own criminal attorney if you need help with a criminal case. A lawyer can represent you in court and assist with your defense. Also, your lawyer can keep you posted regarding any changes in the laws in your area.


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