Crimes are defined by criminal statutes, which describe the prohibited conduct, the mental state or intent required for guilt, and the range of possible punishments for criminal offenses. The specific acts that qualify as criminal conduct will depend on a particular state's laws, as will what the actual crime is called in that jurisdiction's courts. Some jurisdictions have clearly defined crimes in modern penal codes, while others rely on poorly organized codifications of crimes that derive from common law principles.
Read on for links to common criminal charges as well as a broad overview of criminal law.
List of Criminal Charges: A to Z
An alphabetical list of common crimes is found below:
A Broad Overview of Criminal Law
Federal, state, and local governments enact statutes to criminalize the conduct of particular concern. For example, a city council may determine that it is a misdemeanor to panhandle in public places, while the United States Congress passes legislation that defines a federal crime for lying on an immigrant visa application. Some criminal charges have been around for centuries, such as robbery and perjury, while others have been added over time to reflect changing societal concerns or new technologies. One recent example is the proliferation of new statutes defining the crime of cyberbullying. Once lawmakers adopt criminal statutes, police officers and prosecutors are responsible for enforcing them.
More serious crimes, such as violent crimes like first-degree murder, will be considered felony offenses. The felon may then face more serious consequences, such as serving time in state prison. Grand theft, sexual abuse, and drug crimes (such as the unlawful sale/distribution of controlled substances) may also classify as felony charges. These felony offenses if convicted, will be present on the offender's criminal record. Certain crimes may require that the perpetrator be classified as a registered sex offender.
Prosecutors have some leeway in deciding what criminal charges to bring, or whether to pursue a particular case at all. A prosecution formally begins with either a grand jury indictment or the filing of a criminal complaint. From that point, the parties will engage in plea negotiations and/or pretrial motions in an effort to avoid or improve their chances at trial. At trial, their cases will be heard by jurors. When cases that proceed to trial end in convictions, judges often follow sentencing guidelines that tell them how much weight to give relevant factors, such as the defendant's past criminal convictions (if any) in fashioning an appropriate sentence.
The U.S. Constitution entitles people charged with crimes to numerous procedural rights, including Miranda warnings, the right to a speedy trial, the right to be free from unlawful searches, and the right to confront accusers. A convicted defendant who wishes to challenge a conviction or sentence can file an appeal with a higher court. There is also a separate method of challenging the legality of punishment with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which is a way of disputing the legal basis for one's imprisonment.
If You are Facing Criminal Charges, You Need an Attorney
If you have been accused of something on the list of criminal charges above, or any other crime, it is important to know your legal rights. Because an encounter with the criminal justice system can have devastating consequences, be sure that you have a strong legal defense team in your corner. A defense lawyer will help defend your rights in a criminal case. Whether you have been accused of larceny, petty theft, voluntary manslaughter, driving under the influence, reckless driving, or are facing a restraining order, you will want to speak to an experienced defense lawyer.
Lawyers may even help negotiate expungement. They might help their clients get community service orders rather than other punishments. Whatever the offense, you should consider speaking to a lawyer who is well-versed in criminal law to help you navigate your next steps.
Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you to learn more.