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Types of Criminal Offenses

You have probably heard about someone being charged with multiple offenses despite only committing one, and you may begin to wonder why and how that is possible. It is because crimes fall into different categories, and crimes within the same classes are related. When someone commits a crime, they most likely unintentionally commit a few other crimes in the category of the one executed. 

Types of Criminal Offenses

Even though there are numerous types of crimes, the law generally divides them into five main groups: crimes against people, crimes against property, financial, statutory, and inchoate crimes.

Crimes Against a Person

This category involves crimes that involve causing physical or mental harm to another person. These crimes can be in the form of violence and homicide. 

Any homicide charge may be brought against a person if they harm another person and the victim dies due to the harm. It could be first-degree murder, vehicular homicide, or voluntary manslaughter. Violent crimes, such as assault, kidnapping, rape, child abuse, domestic violence, arson, and battery, are severe crimes under this category.

In some jurisdictions, the punishment may include imprisonment for one year or life in prison without the possibility of parole. In some murder cases under federal criminal law and the laws of several states, the judge may give the death penalty to the offender.

Crimes Against Property

Interference with another person’s property is a common element of the crime against property. Even though they might cause another person physical or mental harm, their main effect is the deprivation of the owner's right to use or enjoy the property. Burglary, shoplifting, robbery, larceny, and auto theft are a few examples of theft crimes that often involve property.

Financial and Other Crimes

Financial crimes are money-related crimes. They include fraud, laundering, extortion, embezzlement, tax evasion, and cybercrime. They are known as "white-collar crimes," and anyone in any industry can commit them. 

Statutory Crimes

Statutory crimes are all crimes that the law prohibits. Based on this, experts identify all crimes as drug crimes, alcohol-related crimes, traffic offenses, and financial/white-collar crimes. The law explicitly forbids these crimes to deter people from committing them. 

Alcohol-related offenses cover a wide range of infractions involving where, when, and how people should consume alcohol. Drug crimes include drug possession, manufacturing, and trafficking. Traffic offenses can occur while a person is operating a vehicle on a public road. 

Inchoate Crimes

Inchoate crimes are offenses that were started but not finished and actions that aid the commission of another crime. To commit an inchoate crime, a person must have more than just the desire or hope to commit a crime. Instead, to be found guilty, the offender must make "a substantial step" towards committing the crime. 

Conspiracy, attempt, and aiding and abetting are examples of inchoate crimes. In some circumstances, the punishment for inchoate crimes can be as severe as the punishment for the underlying offense. Under other conditions, the penalties might be less painful.


Every state's criminal statutes list criminal offenses, including those above. Lawmakers determine the category of crime based on factors like the severity of the offense, the circumstances in which it took place, and the damage caused. 

“When someone accuses you of a crime or you suspect that someone might blame you, seek advice from an attorney. It is also imperative that you understand your local state criminal laws,” says defense attorney Ryan Brown.

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