The distinguishing feature of criminal law is the element of punishment. The purpose of criminal law is to punish wrongdoers. If someone is accused of a crime and subsequently convicted of that crime, then they are to be punished, That is dramatically different than the purpose of civil law which is supposed to compensate someone for an injury suffered or to undo a wrong that has been committed.
These are some of the major crimes that people can commit:
There are different degrees of murder. The premeditated, willful, and deliberate killing of another is murder one or capital murder. In most jurisdictions, the person who kills while attempting to inflict serious bodily injury on another has shown sufficient malice to be guilty of murder. In those jurisdictions where murder is divided into different degrees, this type of murder is generally referred to as murder in the second degree. What principally distinguishes murder in the first degree from murder in the second degree is the premeditation that is part of the murder one offense.
Felony murder arises where any death results during the commission of a felony. A felony is a crime for which a person can be imprisoned for more than a year. Many jurisdictions make distinctions as to whether felony murder will be murder one or murder two depending upon the type of felony that is being committed.
Kidnapping is the unlawful carrying away of a person typically for purposes of obtaining a ransom.
Robbery is the theft of property from the control of another.
It is to be distinguished from burglary, which involves an unlawful entry into a premises for the purpose of obtaining property or committing some other crime.
Rape is forcible sexual intercourse with another.
There are a number of so-called victimless crimes. Some people take issue with the use of the term victimless on the notion that all crimes involve a victim, whether it be the perpetrator or someone else. The crimes of prostitution, drug abuse, and obscenity are sometimes called victimless crimes.
There also several crimes that are classified as crimes against property.
Larceny is a property crime that involves the taking and carrying away of the valuable personal property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property. Larceny differs from robbery in that the property is not under the immediate control of the victim.
Embezzlement is a property crime that is defined as the fraudulent conversion of the property of another by a person who has lawful possession of the property. If an employee removes money from the cash drawer and converts that money to his or her own personal use, then that person has committed embezzlement. Embezzlement normally involves someone who is in a position of trust and has access to the money or property of another.
False pretenses is also a property crime. False pretenses is defined as obtaining title to property by knowingly or recklessly making a false representation of a presently existing fact of monetary significance that is intended to and does defraud the victim. False pretenses is very much like the civil claim of fraud.
Forgery is another property crime. The most common instruments involved in forgery are checks. If you have insufficient funds in your banking account and write a check on that bank account, it is not forgery. The check is genuine. Forgery is the false making or altering of a legally significant instrument (for instance, a check) with the intent to defraud.
Uttering is related to forgery. Uttering consists of negotiating or attempting to negotiate an instrument that is known to be false. This is very similar to simply passing a bad check. If you write a check on your own account when you know that there are not sufficient funds in the account, that, however, is not uttering but simply passing a bad check. The term uttering comes from the fact that words are uttered in presenting that document for negotiation.
Receiving stolen goods is another property crime. To be guilty of receiving stolen goods, the receiver must know or believe the goods were stolen.
Extortion is a property crime that involves making threats for the purpose of obtaining money or property. If someone threatens to expose you as a philanderer unless you give him or her $1,000, that may be extortion.
Burglary is another property crime. Burglary is breaking and entering the structure of another with the intent of committing a crime. Normally the crime that is intended to be committed is theft or larceny-removing something from the premises.
There are a multitude of other property crimes.
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