A distinct characteristic of criminal violations—they are all statutory. That means that there must be a written law, enacted by a legislative body (either a state legislature or the U.S. House and Senate), and that the defendant must have acted contrary to what is permitted under the statute. Here are some of the most common types of criminal offenses:

Homicide Crimes
In most instances, to be charged with a criminal offense in connection with the death of another person, it must be shown that you acted either intentionally or recklessly. The laws vary from state to state, but recklessness customarily requires a showing of “wanton disregard” for the value of human life. Most states also have statutes that impose criminal penalties for deaths caused in certain motor vehicle accidents, usually identified as “criminal negligence” or “vehicular homicide.” Murder is the most serious type of homicide crime, and is usually broken down into different types. First degree murder generally requires premeditation and deliberation—essentially a plan. In most states, a homicide committed in the course of another felony is treated the same as first degree murder. Second degree murder, often called “manslaughter,” is typically the charge when someone acts “in the heat of passion” or “as the result of an irresistible impulse.”

Theft Offenses
Theft offenses include larceny, burglary, robbery and receipt of stolen goods. Larceny is typically divided according to the value of goods stolen, with the distinctions being known as grand larceny (larger amounts) and petty
larceny (smaller amounts). Burglary generally requires the unlawful entry onto private property to commit a theft offense, and robbery generally involves the use or threat of force or violence to commit a theft.

Sex Crimes
Sex crimes include a wide range of offenses, from prostitution and solicitation of minors to indecency or lewdness, from rape or molestation to the dissemination of child pornography.

Weapons Offenses
Most states have laws governing what types of weapons a person may possess or carry, as well as the types of permits, if any, that are required for ownership or possession. States also have laws governing the carrying of weapons in school zones, as well as the use of weapons in the commission of a crime. There are also state and federal laws governing the possession, sale, manufacture or distribution of certain “assault” type weapons.

Assault and Battery
Most states have laws criminalizing certain acts as assault or battery. The general distinction is that assault does not require any type of touching, but battery typically does. An assault may occur where the actions of a person put another party in reasonable apprehension of immediate physical touching or injury.

A battery, though, requires an offensive touching. The touching need not cause pain, but must reasonably be considered offensive and unwanted by the recipient. For example, an unwanted kiss or cuddling may constitute
battery. Furthermore, if you attempt to wrongfully touch or make contact with one person, but a third party is wrongfully touched, you can still be charged with battery.

Drug Offenses
Drug offenses generally include the following:

  • Illegal possession of a controlled substance
  • Wrongful sale, distribution or trafficking of an illegal drug
  • The manufacture or cultivation of a proscribed substance, such as meth or marijuana
  • The illegal importation or transfer of controlled substances

You can also be charged with conspiracy to commit a drug crime if you engage in any conduct that furthers the criminal enterprise.

Criminal Conspiracy
Criminal conspiracy is a form of catchall offense, often used when the actions of a person further a criminal scheme or enterprise. The federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) has been used extensively by federal prosecutors to obtain convictions in organized crime investigations.

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