Types of Crimes

Crimes are generally defined as felonies or misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is a less serious offense with punishment ranging from a fine to imprisonment of less then a year. A felony is a crime where a person is usually imprisoned for more than a year. There are a wide variety of crimes which fall under each category. The following list will define the most common crimes which are committed.


Murder is the intentional or unintentional act of killing someone. Murder is divided into categories depending on if the killing was intentional (pre-meditated) or unintentional.

Murder in the first degree is the pre-meditated, intentional act of killing of someone. For example, David planned out a murder, bought a gun and went to George's house and killed him with the gun. This is considered murder in the first degree.

Murder in the second degree is killing someone while inflicting bodily harm, but not necessarily trying to kill them. For example, David and George were in a fight and David beat George up. The injuries George suffered lead to his death. The fight was not pre-meditated so David may be charged with murder in the second degree.

Felony murder could result if a murder occurs during the commission of a felony crime.

Negligent homicide can occur if someone is accidently killed as a result of someone else's negligence. For example, David is driving a car and runs a stop light. George, the passenger in David's car, is hit by another car and is killed. David may be charged with negligent homicide.


Under criminal law, kidnapping is taking someone against their will. In many countries this will include holding the victim for ransom. This is relatively rare in the United where the Federal Bureau of Investigation places a high priority on solving these crimes. After the kidnapping has occurred the victim is usually held in confinement. The most common type of kidnapping in the United States is the non-custodial parent abducting their child with the intention of keeping them.


Rape is defined as unwanted and forced sexual intercourse. It can occur to men and women of all ages. Someone could be raped by a stranger, a family member, or a date. The rapist generally uses either violence or the threat of violence to perform the rape.


Assault is defined as the threat of physical harm or the act of physically injuring someone. Some states further define assault as aggravated assault if the assault occurs with the use of a deadly weapon.


Burglary occurs if someone enters a structure (does not have to be a residence) with the intent to commit a theft. This differs from robbery. No victim must be present and the trespasser does not have to break and enter illegally. The entry must be against the owner's desire and would not include someone such as a locksmith who has the permission of the owner to break in.


Arson is defined as setting fire and burning any type of structure intentionally. There could other charges file if another crime is committed in addition to the arson such as insurance fraud. If someone is injured or killed as a result of the arson additional charges could also be filed.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

In every states if you are unable to drive or operate a vehicle or any other type of motorized vehicle because you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol above the established blood alcohol levels for your state you are considered to be "driving under the influence" and can be arrested and charged with DUI.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is the psychological or physical abuse between family members. Domestic violence victims can include men, women and children. Domestic violence can include threats, intimidation, physical violence and sexual assault.


Extortion is defined as obtaining money or property from a person or business by using threats of violence, intimidation or other acts or coercion. This occurs frequently with organized crime groups who offer "protection" or agree not to hurt someone in exchange for payment.


In most jurisdictions if someone has taken someone else's possessions with violence or other acts of intimidation they have committed robbery. Aggravated robbery can also occur if a deadly weapon is used. Certain jurisdictions may have more specific language to differentiate between theft and robbery.

Drug Possession

The crime of drug possession is defined as possessing, distributing or using illegal drugs. The penalties for drug possession differ depending on the type and the amount of drugs that were found and the state you live in. If you have a small amount of drugs it might be considered possession only. If you are found with a large amount of drugs this might result in a charge for "possession with intent to sell". The penalty for the drug possession charge can vary from fines to prison sentence.


Embezzlement is converting someone else's property or money illegally for your own personal use. Embezzlement often arises in a business setting if an employee has access to funds and takes that money for their own use.


Forgery is copying or somehow altering a form of payment in an effort to defraud. This can include altering a check and cashing it.

Receiving stolen goods

In order to be guilty of receiving stolen goods you must be aware that the goods you have received are stolen.


Solicitation is receiving payment or some gain to engage in illegal activity. This could occur if someone asks you to kill their wife for $10,000. This is considered solicitation.

Criminal Law Term of the Day


Battery is generally grouped with assault and is labeled assault and battery, although assault can involve the threat of physical force while battery requires actual physical contact.

Category: Criminal Law

Question of the Day

My 10 year old son has been charged with discharging a gun. What do I do?

If your minor son has been charged with a felony contact a lawyer immediately.

Category: Criminal Law

Share this page with a friend