Criminal law, as opposed to civil law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It could be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey these laws. Criminal law is distinctive for the uniquely serious potential consequences, or sanctions, for failure to abide by its rules.
Offenses Against the Person
In criminal law, an offense against the person usually refers to a crime which is committed by direct physical harm or force being applied to another person. They are usually analyzed by division into fatal offenses, sexual offenses, or non-fatal non-sexual offenses. Although most sexual offenses will also be offenses against the person, sexual crimes are usually categorized separately. Similarly, although many homicides also involve an offense against the person, they are usually categorized under the more serious category.
A violent crime is a crime in which the offender uses or threatens to use violent force upon the victim. Violent crimes include crimes committed with and without weapons. They also include both crimes in which the violent act is the objective, such as murder, as well as crimes in which violence is the means to an end, such as robbery. The United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) counts five categories of crime as violent crimes: murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. According to BJS figures, the rate of violent crime victimization in the United States declined by more than two thirds between the years 1994 and 2009. On September 30, 2009, 7.9% of sentenced prisoners in federal prisons were in for violent crimes; 52.4% of sentenced prisoners in state prisons at yearend 2008 were in for violent crimes; and 21.6% of convicted inmates in jails in 2002 were in for violent crimes.
Sex crimes are forms of human sexual behavior that are crimes. Someone who commits one is said to be a sex offender. Some sex crimes are crimes of violence that involve sex. Others are violations of social taboos, such as incest, sodomy, indecent exposure or exhibitionism. There is much variation among cultures as to what is considered a crime or not, and in what ways or to what extent crimes are punished.
Property crime is a category of crime that includes burglary, larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, shoplifting, and vandalism. Property crime only involves the taking of money or property, and does not involve force or threat of force against a victim. Although robbery involves taking property, it is classified as a violent crime, since force, or threat of force, on an individual is involved, in contrast to burglary which typically takes place in an unoccupied dwelling or other unoccupied building. In 2005, only 18% of reported cases of larceny/theft were cleared in the United States.
Hate crimes occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, or gender identity.
Virtual crime refers to a virtual criminal act that takes place in a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). The huge time and effort invested into such games can lead online "crime" to spill over into real world crime, and even blur the distinctions between the two. Some countries have introduced special police investigation units to cover such “virtual crimes.” South Korea is one such country, and looked into 22,000 cases in the first six months of 2003.
Organized crime is the transnational, national, or local grouping of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Sometimes criminal organizations force people to do business with them, as when a gang extorts money from shopkeepers for "protection." An organized gang or criminal set can also be referred to as a mob.