List of Criminal Charges A to Z

The specific elements of criminal charges depend on the state and federal laws defining a crime. Some jurisdictions have clearly defined crimes in modern penal codes, while others rely on less organized codifications of crimes derived from common law principles.

Criminal laws and codes began with the earliest human civilizations. Today, American criminal law appears in state and federal criminal statutes. These laws describe prohibited conduct, the mental state or intent required for guilt, and the possible punishments for criminal offenses.

Crimes and criminal procedure don't always easily align with their portrayal in movies and TV. Seeking justice can demand tough decisions with little "True Crime" glamour. For example, in juvenile delinquency cases, criminal justice professionals may struggle with when to bind a case to the adult system and when to keep it in the juvenile court.

Below is a list of the most common criminal charges, including links to more detailed articles. We will also provide an overview of criminal law and the criminal justice system.

List of Criminal Charges A to Z

An alphabetical list of common crimes is below:

Aggravated assault

Aiding and abetting/accessory






Child abandonment

Child abuse

Child neglect

Child pornography

Computer crime



Credit/debit card fraud

Criminal contempt of court


Disorderly conduct

Disturbing the peace

Domestic violence

Drug manufacturing and cultivation

Drug possession

Drug trafficking/distribution







Hate crimes


Identity theft

Insurance fraud

Identity theft


Manslaughter: Involuntary

Manslaughter: Voluntary

Medical Marijuana

MIP: A minor in possession

Money laundering

Murder: First-degree

Murder: Second-degree

Obstruction of justice

Open container (of alcohol)

Parole violation


Probation violation


Public intoxication

Pyramid schemes




Securities fraud

Sexual assault




Statutory rape

Tax evasion/fraud

Telemarketing fraud



White collar crimes

Wire fraud

An Overview of Criminal Law

Federal, state, and local governments enact laws to criminalize conduct related to areas of particular concern. For example, a city council may deem it a misdemeanor to panhandle in certain public places. Congress may approve legislation that defines a federal crime for lying on an immigrant visa application.

Some criminal charges, such as robbery and perjury, have existed for centuries. Others, like DUI and domestic violence, came about more recently and reflect changing societal concerns. Changes in technology have led to new crimes. Before the widespread use of the internet, no one talked about cyberbullying or revenge porn. Once lawmakers adopt criminal statutes, police officers and prosecutors must enforce them.

More serious crimes, including violent crimes like first-degree murder, are felony offenses. A felon may face severe consequences upon conviction, such as serving time in state prison. Grand theft, sexual abuse, drug crimes (such as unlawful sale/distribution of controlled substances), and possession of child pornography often result in felony charges.

Upon conviction, criminal offenses will appear on the offender's criminal record and may lead to a year or more in prison. Certain crimes like sexual assault may require an offender to register as a sex offender, sometimes for life. In drug trafficking cases, the state may also seek forfeiture of illegal proceeds like cash and other contraband.

Misdemeanor offenses, such as having an open container in a motor vehicle and solicitation for sex, may carry lesser penalties like fines and jail time. Traffic tickets are often violations and carry only a fine and costs.

Law enforcement and prosecutors have some leeway in deciding what criminal charges to bring or whether to pursue a particular case. In large-scale organized crime cases, they may bring charges like money laundering, making false statements, or tampering with a witness against lower-level criminals first. They may later seek cooperation from these lesser players to go after the significant criminal offenders at the organization's top.

A prosecution formally begins with finding probable cause via a grand jury indictment or filing a criminal complaint. From that point, the state and the defense may engage in plea negotiations or pretrial motions. This may be to avoid court or to improve their chances once they are there. Judges and juries hear the evidence in the trial and decide guilt or innocence.

When cases that proceed to trial end in convictions, judges often follow sentencing guidelines that tell them how much weight to give relevant factors. These might include factors such as the defendant's past criminal convictions or the age or relationship to the victim. In cases like aggravated assault or stalking, the court may request a victim impact statement to understand better the effect and cost of the crime on the victim.

The U.S. Constitution provides people facing criminal charges with certain procedural rights. This includes Miranda warnings, the right to a speedy trial, the right to be free from unlawful searches, and the right to confront their accusers. All people also have civil rights that permit them to question or protest the government's actions legally.

A convicted defendant who wishes to challenge a conviction or sentence can file for review by an appellate court. Depending on the law and circumstances, defendants can pursue appeals to their state supreme court or the U.S. Supreme Court. There is also a separate method of challenging the legality of punishment with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

Crime victims may also pursue civil remedies against an offender. This may include court orders that protect the victim and restrain the offender from future contact. Victims may also file a civil lawsuit for damages and seek to recover costs related to their injuries, including restitution for health care bills and lost wages.

If You are Facing Criminal Charges, You Need an Attorney

Whether you're dealing with an offense on the list of criminal charges above or any other crime, it is essential to know your legal rights. Any encounter with the criminal justice system is serious. Getting legal advice will help you weigh evidence and choose the best defense. No matter the charge — larceny, shoplifting, voluntary manslaughter, obstructing justice, or restraining order violation — you will want to speak to an experienced defense lawyer.

Lawyers can challenge the admission of key evidence. They can negotiate a fair plea bargain that opens the possibility of expungement. They might help their clients get community service in place of jail time. Whatever the offense, you should consider speaking to a lawyer well-versed in criminal law to help you navigate a criminal case.

Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you to learn more.

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