Crime Classifications and Definitions

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Each year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) publishes crime statistics in its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. The reports provide not only helpful statistics but also crime classifications and definitions. UCR categorizes serious crimes as Part I offenses and less serious crimes as Part II offenses.

Part I Offenses

Personal/Violent Crimes

Aggravated assault: The unlawful attack of another person to inflict severe or aggravated bodily injury, usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or by other means likely to produce death or grave bodily harm. Attempted aggravated assault, assault that involves the use or threat of use of a gun, knife, or other weapon is included in this crime category because serious personal injury likely would result.

Forcible rape: The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. The UCR program includes assault and the attempt to commit rape by force or threat of force in the definition. However, the UCR specifically excludes statutory rape (without force) and other sex offenses. The UCR program collects data only on the rape of women.

Crime Classifications and Definitions

Murder: The killing of a human being in a willful and non-negligent manner.

Robbery: The taking, or attempt to take, anything of value from a person by force or threat of force or violence.

Property Crimes

Arson: The willful or malicious burning, or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a house, public building, motor vehicle, aircraft, or personal property.

Burglary: The unlawful entering of a structure to commit a felony or theft. Forcible entry need not have occurred.

Larceny-theft: The unlawful taking of property from another (e.g., stealing a bicycle, stealing automobile parts, shoplifting, or pickpocketing) without force, violence, or fraud. Attempted larcenies are included.

Motor vehicle theft: The theft, or attempted theft, of a motor vehicle.

Part II Offenses

Curfew violation/loitering:Curfew violation is sometimes classified as a status offense that only juveniles can commit. Loitering involves spending an excessive amount of time in a particular location without being able to justify one’s presence when questioned by authorities. Loitering frequently occurs in conjunction with curfew violations.

Disorderly conduct: Acting in a manner potentially threatening to oneself or to other people. Disorderly conduct laws sometimes overlap with public drunkenness laws.

Driving under the influence: The operating of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Each state sets an acceptable blood-alcohol level for drivers.

Drug law violations: Violating any local, state, or federal drug law that prohibits the possession or sale of specific drugs or drug paraphernalia.

Embezzlement: The misappropriation of money or property by a person entrusted with it for personal use and benefit.

Forgery and counterfeiting: Forgery involves creating or altering a written document in such a way that another person’s rights are compromised. Counterfeiting occurs when a person copies or imitates an item without authorization and passes off the copy as genuine or the original thing. While counterfeiting is most often associated with money, it also can be applied to designer clothing and accessories.

Fraud: The intentional deception by one party in order to wrongfully obtain possession or control of money, goods, or specific rights belonging to an innocent party.

Gambling: Violating any local, state or federal law that prohibits risking money or some other thing of value on the outcome of a competition, or on a future occurrence.

Liquor-law violations: Selling alcohol without a valid liquor-serving license or failing to check the identification of all people seeking to purchase alcohol on the premises.

Offenses against the family (e.g., nonsupport): The failure of one or both parents to provide for their children.

Prostitution and related offenses: Offering to exchange sexual favors for money, drugs or other goods, and promoting or providing such favors.

Public drunkenness: Being inebriated in public for an extended period of time. Blood-alcohol levels are set forth to govern such violations in each state. Laws also dictate when and where people may carry alcohol in open containers.

Runaways: States usually classifyrunning away from home as a status offense that can be committed only by juveniles. The Justice Department’s Amber Alert program seeks to help communities start searches for children when there is any suspicion they are in danger and have not left home voluntarily.

Sex offenses (other than rape and prostitution):Offenses against chastity and common decency. This category includes statutory rape (an adult having sex with a child or teen who cannot legally consent to the act), incest, and indecent exposure.

Simple assault: The attempt to inflict physical harm on another person when that person is aware. Assault can be both a criminal and civil wrong, redressed by either criminal punishment or damages. Battery has generally been defined as the unlawful touching of another person. However, many jurisdictions no longer observe this distinction.

Stolen property (mishandling of): The selling or purchasing goods stolen from another person or entity.

Vandalism: The damaging or defacing of public or private property without permission.

Weapons (e.g., unlawful carrying of): The carrying of a concealed weapon without the proper license or permit; fraudulently obtaining a gun, license, or ammunition; or possessing a type of gun or assault weapon that the public is not authorized to own, carry or use.

Vagrancy: The failure to maintain a verifiable mailing address and spending excessive time wandering around in public.

New or Notable Crimes

Corporate/white-collar crimes: Under a legal theory called the Identification Doctrine, corporations can be convicted as legal entities under various criminal laws. In an effort to further combat this type of fraud, President Bush signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 into law. The act created penalties for those trying to practice accounting fraud.

Hate crimes: The commission a crime against a person because of that person’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics. The FBI publishes statistics each year about hate crimes.

Identity theft: The unlawful use of a person’s identifying information (e.g., Social Security number, driver’s license information, credit card number) to obtain financial gain. In May 2006, President Bush signed Executive Order 13,402 into law, authorizing the use of federal resources to combat this growing crime.

Organized crime: Organized crime today frequently involves homegrown street gangs, but the Colombian drug-trafficking cartels continue to smuggle large quantities of drugs into the United States. Many of these types of groups are also involved in importing undocumented immigrants into the United States.

Terrorism: The use, or threatened use, of violence against civilians to achieve political or ideological goals.

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