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What are the Types of Crimes Under US Laws?

When we watch crime or law shows on TV we hear terms like class D misdemeanor or a class A felony, manslaughter, and murder, but what is the difference between these classifications. The truth is that there are many different classifications and terms for crimes that most Americans are unaware of, there is a difference between them and it affects the terms of sentencing as well as eligibility for parole.

For example, the minimum sentence for manslaughter in New York is 5 years, the minimum sentence for second-degree murder is 15 years and the minimum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is life in prison. This article will guide you through the different types of crime in the United States and clear away the confusion. 

Types of Crimes

Different Categories of Crime

There are five different main types of crime and although these crimes are illegal throughout the US, the level of severity of each crime differs depending on the state. Additionally, some crimes in most of the US like prostitution is legal in rare cases like some areas of Nevada. The five categories are:

Personal Crimes 

Personal crimes are crimes that are committed against another person that results in either physical or mental harm. This category can be further divided into two more categories, violent crimes, and homicides. Homicides are crimes in which the physical harm is so much that it causes death. Homicide includes a number of sub-categories like murder, manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter and comes in different degrees. Violent crimes include assault and battery, arson, domestic and child abuse, rape, statutory rape sexual assault, and kidnapping. 

Property Crimes

Property crimes are committed by damaging or stealing property rather than committed a crime against a person this usually involves damaging or stealing property. Most property crimes are theft-related including burglary, larceny, robbery auto-theft and shoplifting, forgery, receipt of stolen goods and embezzlement. 

Inchoate Crimes

Inchoate crimes are those that were attempted but never completed. It is not enough to prove intent, a step towards the crime must also have been taken in order for it to be considered an Inchoate crime. These include aiding and abetting, attempt, solicitation and conspiracy crimes. Occasionally a sentence for an Inchoate crime can be similar to the would-be crime but is often less severe. 

Types of Crimes in the United States

Statutory Crimes

Statutory crimes are those which are proscribed by the statute. While all categories are technically considered statutory because they are written in the law, these crimes are not necessarily harmful or damaging to others yet are still crimes in the hopes of deterring people from engaging in these acts. There are three main types of statutory crimes.

These are alcohol-related crimes, drug crimes, and traffic offenses. Some examples of alcohol-related statutory crimes are Driving Under the Influence, Public Intoxication, and Underage drinking. Drug crimes include any crimes related to the creation, distribution, and consumption of narcotics. These include drug possession, drug manufacturing, and drug trafficking. Traffic offenses include driving without a license, reckless driving, when damage with a vehicle occurs it can be considered a personal crime as well. 

Financial Crimes

Financial crimes often called white-collar crime, involving fraud for financial gain. Although the name white-collar crimes originated from the people who traditionally commit these crimes, they can be committed by anyone in any industry and include blackmail, embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion, and cybercrime. 

Personal Crimes

What Are The Different Levels of Crime?

Crimes are categorized into two main levels of severity, felonies, and misdemeanors. Felonies are more serious crimes like murder, kidnapping, and robbery, while misdemeanors are less serious crimes like shoplifting or driving under the influence. Felonies can carry heavy prison sentences whilst misdemeanors usually are fines or short prison sentences unless it is committed by a repeat offender.

There are also Felony-misdemeanors which can be treated as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the situation, in a plea deal, a prosecutor may offer a misdemeanor charge in exchange for a guilty plea so the offender will serve less time and the prosecutors do not need to spend a lot of time and money on a lengthy trial. 

The last level of a crime is an infraction, these are usually from traffic offenses like jaywalking or running a red light. These low-level crimes are usually punishable by fine or alternative sentencing such as traffic school.

Within these levels, however, there are also degrees and classes. The class system refers to the maximum sentence allowed for each level of crime. Felonies have 5 classes and misdemeanors have 3. They are:

  • Class A Felony- Life imprisonment (or death).
  • Class B Felony- 25 years or more.
  • Class C Felony- Less than 25 years but 10 or more years.
  • Class D Felony- Less than 10 years but 5 or more years.
  • Class E Felony- Less than 5 years but more than 1 year.
  • Class A Misdemeanor- 1 year or less but more than 6 months.
  • Class B Misdemeanor- 6 months or less but more than 30 days.
  • Class C Misdemeanor- 30 days or less but more than 5 days.

Infractions are only one class with a sentence of 5 days or less.

Property Crimes

The degree system only is used by states in regard to murder and includes First-degree murder, Second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntarily manslaughter. While the definitions vary based on the state they usually are: 

First-degree murder- This refers to an intentional murder that was planned out in advance and includes a special circumstance such as kidnapping, or robbery. 

Second-degree murder- This refers to an intentional murder, but without special circumstances, this is most commonly used when murdering a spouse. 

Voluntary manslaughter- This is a case of intentional murder but without prior intent. It often is the same as a crime of passion, when someone is so overcome that his immediate reaction is to kill, but it was not premeditated. 

Involuntarily manslaughter- This is a killing that was not intentional, however, the act that led to the killing was intentional or negligent, a classic example of this is killing someone while drunk driving, or assaulting someone but damaging the victim enough to kill him without intending to do so. 

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