A “crime” is an act or omission violating the law. Criminal law consists of legal rules for the safety of the public and prevents wrongful conduct. In this article, you will learn about different types of offenses and their consequences.
Criminal Law is a legal system dealing with the punishment of individuals who commit crimes. The violation of criminal law may result in fines /penalties or imprisonment or both. Criminal laws are administered by both state and federal laws. Every state of the United States has its own penal code which defines a crime and its punishment. The principal of “Stare Decisis” is followed for interpreting the criminal statutes. Stare Decisis means that once a decision is issued by a court in certain circumstances, that ruling will be binding for all similar matters that come before the court on a later date. Law enforcement agencies investigate alleged crimes. The constitutional rights of the citizens are protected by procedural rules when the police investigated them. A criminal trial includes the government determining whether to punish a person for either an act or omission.
Codification of Criminal Procedure
Each state of the USA has its own criminal codes derived from common law. Consequently, any specific crime somewhere is required to look it up in that jurisdiction
Each state determines what behavior to designate a crime. Codifying federal criminal law in Title 18 of the U.S.Code with §§ 1 to 2725 dealing with crimes, Congress has penalized certain conduct. It varies significantly among the states and the federal government.
Title 18 applies to various conduct as federal crimes, such as the use of chemical weapons, genocide, counterfeit, forgery, embezzlement, espionage, and kidnapping. These statutes prescribe a maximum sentence appropriate for a convicted offender.
The federal government has also codified the specific procedures in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that must take place during a criminal trial.
Types of crimes
Crimes are majorly categorized into two types
Misdemeanors are lesser serious criminal offenses generally punishable with monetary fines or imprisonment for one year or less in the county jail. Misdemeanor offenses are classified into three classes high or gross misdemeanors, ordinary misdemeanors, and petty misdemeanors.
Punishment for misdemeanors
The federal law provides sentencing guidelines
- Class A misdemeanor – imprisonment of one year or less, but more than six months;
- Class B misdemeanor – imprisonment of six months or less, but more than thirty days; or
- Class C misdemeanor – imprisonment of thirty days or less, but more than five days.
Examples: petty theft, shoplifting, reckless driving, possession of cannabis in small amounts, public intoxication, trespassing, disorderly conduct, vandalism simple assault, and other low-level offenses.
Felonies are highly serious criminal offenses generally punishable with imprisonment of a year or more in state or federal prison. It is not uniform throughout the USA. In the USA 43 states use and define felonies. Some states do not define but use it.
Examples: Rape, Murder, Burglary, Embezzlement and Money Laundering, Extortion, Blackmail, kidnapping, Aggravated Assault or Battery, Manslaughter (unintentional killing of another), Animal cruelty, Vehicular Homicide, Tax evasion, fraud, Computer Crime, computer hacking, manufacture, sale, possession or distribution of illegal drugs, Kidnapping, Copyright infringement, Child pornography, Forgery, Grand larceny or grand theft, i.e., above a certain established quantity or value of goods, etc.
Punishment for felonies
Federal law provides sentencing guidelines
- Class A felony – the death penalty or life imprisonment ;
- Class B felony – imprisonment of twenty-five years or more;
- Class C felony – imprisonment of less than twenty-five years, but more than ten years;
- Class D felony – imprisonment of less than ten years, but more than five years; or
- Class E felony – imprisonment of less than five years, but more than one year.
Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony offenses?
Misdemeanors are lesser serious criminal offenses whereas Felonies are highly serious criminal offenses. Both, misdemeanor and felony can result in imprisonment, fines/penalties, job loss, and other consequences on personal life. Hire a competent criminal law attorney who can help you.
Crimes are further categorized into the following types:
- Personal Crimes
Personal crimes are those that cause another person to suffer physical or mental harm. They are further classified into two categories:
- Forms of homicide: If the physical harm is so severe that it causes the death of another person, the offender can be charged with any one type of homicide i.e. first-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, etc.
- Violent crimes: violent crimes are also very serious which include arson, child abuse, assault and battery, domestic abuse, rape, kidnapping, etc.
- Property Crimes
Property crimes involve interference with another’s property. Although it may also involve physical or mental harm to another, it mainly results in the deprivation of the use or enjoyment of the property. Property crimes include arson, theft, burglary, larceny, robbery, shoplifting, etc.
- Inchoate Crimes
Inchoate crimes refer to those crimes that were started but not completed and acts that prepare to commit another crime. Inchoate crimes involve more than a person merely intending to commit a crime. Instead, the person must take a “substantial step” towards the completion of the crime to find himself guilty. Inchoate crimes include attempt, aiding, abetting, conspiracy, etc.
- Statutory Crimes
Statutory crimes are crimes prescribed by statute. These crimes prohibited by statute as society wants to discourage individuals from engaging in them. They are categorized into the following types :
alcohol-related crimes, drug crimes, traffic offenses, and financial/white-collar crimes.
- Alcohol-related crimes
Alcohol-related crimes are offenses involving the consumption of alcohol, such as driving under the influence offenses (DUI /DWI), minor in Possession of Alcohol, Selling and Supplying Alcohol to Minors, Refusing to Perform a Field Sobriety Test, Refusing to Perform a Breathalyzer or Provide a Blood Sample, Public Intoxication, etc.
- Drug crimes
Drug crimes involve possession, creation, manufacturing, distribution, and trafficking of drugs.
- Traffic crimes
Traffic offenses occur while a person is driving a vehicle on public roadways. A DUI/OWI/DWI involves the use of the vehicle as well as alcohol it is considered an alcohol-related crime and a traffic offense. Traffic offenses also include driving without a license, driving with a suspended or revoked license, hit-and-run accidents, reckless driving, and vehicular assault. If a traffic offense results in death, it will be charged as a serious crime, such as a form of homicide.
- Financial and Other Crimes
Financial crimes include fraud or deception for financial gain. White-collar crimes include many frauds, blackmail, embezzlement and money laundering, tax evasion, cyber-crime, etc.
What are the Elements of a Crime?
A person commits a crime if he or she acts in a manner that fulfills every element of a crime. The statute which establishes the offense also establishes the elements of the offense.
Generally, there are three elements of every crime:
- the act or conduct (actus reus);
- the mental state of the person at the time of the act (mens rea); and
- the cause of the act and its effect.
The burden of proof is on the government to establish every element of a crime beyond any reasonable doubt.