From the time a crime is committed to the time prosecution is completed, or the charges against a suspect are dismissed, the type of crime alleged to have been committed is fundamental to the legal process. All crimes fit into one of five categories, including violent, property, public order, enterprise and white collar. Properly identifying the nature of the crime and the category under which to pursue conviction, is essential in the pursuit of justice, and must be communicated accurately and consistently.
The Three Degrees of Violent Crime
There are three degrees of assault in violent crime: 1st Degree which is intentionally inflicted bodily harm and may result in a felony murder charge; 2nd Degree which differs from 1st Degree in that it may use a potentially deadly weapon, but death neither resulted nor was it intended and 3rd Degree which is a misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury.
Homicide, domestic violence, aggravated battery, hate crimes, rape, and physical and sexual abuse of an adult or a child all fall under the category of violent crime.
Types of Property Crime
Property crime is defined as non-violent removal, without permission, of someone else’s property, usually for the financial benefit of the alleged thief. Common types of property crime include burglary or breaking and entering into a residence or business, and stealing property; theft of items from a store or a person, (i.e. purse snatching and motor vehicle theft); and arson, which is an intentionally started fire that takes property from another through destruction.
In the 21st century, intellectual property theft has also become prosecutable as a property crime; this crime involves usurping someone else’s thoughts or idea(s) and profiting from it.
Vice or Public Order Crimes
Public order crimes are investigated by vice crime law enforcement and include, but are not limited to, illegal gambling, drug use and abuse, pornography and prostitution. They are identified as victimless crimes because the alleged criminal has no intent to cause harm to any other person or take anything from them unless it’s in trade.
Vice, or public order crimes fall under prosecutable law, but are also considered by the legal system to break laws of morality and are contrary to societal opinion about right and wrong.
Enterprise or Organized Crime
Known better as organized crime, enterprise crime involves a group or groups of people who have organized themselves into a crime-committing company of sorts. As the name implies, organized crime practitioners make a business of crime, and are cohesive and effective in their criminal practice. Relatively non-violent categories of enterprise crime include: bribery, counterfeiting, illegal gambling, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and stealing from trucks and trains.
Enterprise crime also includes human trafficking, organized prostitution, exploitation of children, and murder-for-hire, kidnapping and other violent crimes.
White Collar Crime
Even in the 21st century, the definition of white collar crime hasn’t been completely nailed down. Since the 1930s, the FBI has operated on a loose definition which includes most of the non-vice elements of organized crime, perpetrated by “person(s) of respectability and high social status.” Generally, white collar crime is committed against a business by a person who is a high ranking employee of that business.
White collar crime is non-violent in that the perpetrator doesn’t directly cause bodily harm to anyone, but the results of his actions may be injurious, i.e. inspire violence in the victims or cause suicides.