A distinct characteristic of criminal violations is that they are all statutory. This 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. Below are some of the most common types of criminal offenses.
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 intent requires a knowing, planned act while 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, that is, a plan. In most states, first degree murder also encompasses a homicide committed in the course of another felony. Second degree murder is typically committed with intent, but without planning. Second degree murder also occurs when a person commits an act likely to cause serious bodily harm with an understanding that death could result from the act. Yet another type of criminal homicide is manslaughter, which may be either voluntary or involuntary. A person commits voluntary manslaughter when that person kills another in the heat of passion. In involuntary manslaughter, the criminal behaves recklessly or negligently, but does not intend to kill.
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 known as grand larceny (larger amounts) and pettylarceny (smaller amounts). Generally, burglary requires the unlawful entry onto private property to commit a theft offense, and robbery involves the use or threat of force or violence to commit a theft.
Sex crimes include a wide range of offenses including prostitution and solicitation of minors, indecency or lewdness, rape, molestation, and the dissemination of child pornography.
Most states have laws that govern 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 impose laws that govern 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 that govern the possession, sale, manufacture, or distribution of certain “assault” type weapons, explosives, silencers, and some types of ammunition.
Assault and Battery
Most states have laws that criminalize certain acts as assault or battery. The general distinction is that assault does not require any type of touching, but battery does. An assault occurs when the actions of a person put another party in reasonable apprehension of immediate physical touching or injury.
A battery, on the other hand, 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 constitutebattery. 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 generally include the following:
- Illegal possession of a controlled substance;
- Wrongful sale, distribution or trafficking of an illegal drug;
- Manufacture or cultivation of a proscribed substance, such as meth or marijuana; and
- 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 is a catchall offense, often used when the actions of a person further a criminal scheme or enterprise. The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) has been used extensively by federal prosecutors to obtain convictions in organized crime investigations.
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