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What is Crime

What is Crime: Definition and Types

What is a crime? or What is criminal law? What is a criminal charge? What are the different types of crimes? These are common questions asked about any legal system.


A crime is considered a criminal activity or activity that breaks criminal law. Criminal laws are sets of laws that govern how people are to behave.

Specific actions are considered universally illegal, whether they are taken against people or property. Criminal laws apply to all types of crimes, like hate crimes and white-collar crimes, and they not only state what is illegal but what the punishment is for people who violate those laws.

Types of Crimes

Most crimes can be divided into one of two types of crimes: crimes against property and crimes against people. Within these two categories, you will find subcategories.

With each of these categories and subcategories, you can be charged with different levels of criminal offenses, including misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less severe and don’t stay on your permanent criminal record like felonies. Both misdemeanors and felonies apply to state and federal crimes.

Some types of crimes are automatically considered felonies, especially if you have previously been convicted of that same crime.

In other cases, the decision to convict for a misdemeanor or felony comes down to factors like whether the crime was completed, whether other people were harmed as a result of the crime, whether it was a hate crime, and whether multiple types of crime took place in the same situation.

Crimes against a person


Such criminal activities are done against another individual or group of individuals. These can include:

  • Assault – Any form of assault where one person causes another person harm or the fear of being harmed. There are multiple categories for assault crimes broken down into the type of assault.
  • Robbery – Robbery is a crime that falls under both a crime against a person and a crime against property. It’s considered robbery when harm comes to innocent people because of the theft.
  • Kidnapping – Kidnapping is when one person carries away or confines another person forcibly or deceptively. This is often associated with taking someone away and imprisoning them while waiting for a ransom.
  • False Imprisonment – False imprisonment is another form of crime against a person where one person is forcibly restrained against their will, often with the risk of being hurt or murdered.
  • Murder – There are several levels of murder, including involuntary and premeditated. The severity of punishment associated with these types of crimes varies based on whether the action was planned or an accident.

Crimes against a property

Crimes against property involve any criminal activity done to a piece of property, private or public. Hate crimes can fall under this category if the property damage is done out of a discriminatory action.

  • Theft – Theft is one of the most common crimes against property. This has to do with any situation where one person takes property that belongs to someone else. Burglary and robbery fall under this category, usually involving breaking into private or public property in order to steal something.
  • Arson – Arson is a crime against property involving the malicious burning of a structure. Setting fire to a building can fall under arson, but setting fire to a Jewish synagogue because of racial discrimination can fall under a hate crime definition and arson charges.

Hate crimes

A hate crime definition involves any criminal activity against a person or property due to prejudice. Hate crimes can involve prejudicial illegal activities based on the following:

  • Ethnicity,
  • Disability,
  • Religion,
  • Gender,
  • Race,
  • Sexual orientation.

White collar crimes

A white crime definition associates white-collar crimes with financial crimes, specifically financial crimes where one person takes money from other people or businesses with which they were originally entrusted. This can include:

Crimes against morality

Crimes against morality are typically victimless crimes. Instead of the crime being against another person or a piece of property, it is against a conceptual value of morality.

Someone engaging in prostitution or illegal drug use could be convicted of crimes against morality because the crimes themselves do not hurt anyone other than the person convicted.

Inchoate crimes

Inchoate crimes, as the name suggests, are crimes that someone started but didn’t finish. Conspiracy to murder falls under this category, where people plan a premeditated murder or kidnapping but don’t follow through. Attempted crimes also fall under this category.

Someone who tries to rob a store but gets caught before they can complete the robbery can be charged with attempted robbery.

Statutory crimes

A statutory crime violates state or federal statutes. Statutory crimes can include crimes against people or property. Example: Selling alcohol to someone underage constitutes a statutory crime.

Financial crimes

Some financial crimes fall under the same category as white-collar crimes like embezzling company money. However, other financial crimes don’t.

The most significant difference is whether the money was entrusted to the criminal for another purpose. Standard financial crimes don’t have this caveat and can include any criminal activity involving money like internet scams to steal money. Some examples include:

  • Credit card fraud,
  • Money laundering,
  • Check fraud,
  • Selling fictitious insurance plans.
  • Cyber crimes

Other crimes

Other types of crime include organized crime. This can be any type of statutory crime, financial crime, or crime against morality exercised by a group of people instead of an individual.

Now you understand basic definitions and crime types. With this in mind, you know more about the laws controlling behavior against other people and personal property.

As laws change, so do types of crime and their punishments. Some crimes are considered victimless; others are violent. The severity of the crime and the type of crime can determine the sentence.

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