Violent Crimes

Crimes defined as violent may vary by state, but they often include crimes of harm against another person like assault or battery, sexual crimes like rape, and serious property crimes like arson. Although homicide crimes are often considered a separate category of criminal law, many jurisdictions consider murder and non-negligent manslaughter to be violent crimes. For instance, for statistical purposes, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines four categories of violent crimes:  murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Crimes of Harm Against Another

Most states consider crimes where an individual harms or threatens to harm another person to be violent crimes. Two of the most common of these crimes are assault and battery. Assault is an intentional act that causes another person to be in fear of imminent bodily harm. Battery is similar to assault, but it requires that actual physical contact or harm has occurred. While the two crimes were traditionally distinct from each other, many states now refer to simply one crime of “assault and battery.” Assault may also become “aggravated” where the threat of harm is particularly offensive, such as when the assault is committed using a deadly weapon.

Many states also define particular violent crimes according to special categories of victims who may face harm or the threat of harm from a perpetrator. These include domestic abuse and child abuse. Domestic abuse criminalizes harmful conduct against individuals who are family members or with whom the perpetrator shares a close relationship. It is prohibited under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and many states have enacted similar statutes to address the unique circumstances of domestic violence crimes. Similarly, most states make special efforts to protect children, given their status as especially vulnerable victims, and to prosecute those who engage in child abuse. These statutes often extend child abuse crimes beyond physical harm to include emotional and sexual abuse. Child abuse statutes may also criminalize kidnapping, although many states have also enacted separate kidnapping statutes.

Sexual Crimes

Both state and federal laws typically categorize offensive sexual crimes as violent crimes. These include rape and sexual assault. Rape is a form of battery that involves sexual contact with another person without his or her consent. It may involve violent physical contact, or it may be accomplished by means of emotional manipulation or a victim’s inability to consent. In any of these circumstances, it is considered a violent crime because of the highly offensive violations that the victim experiences. Statutory rape is a special category of rape that occurs when an adult individual has sexual contact with another person who is below the age of consent, which varies from state to state. Since the younger participant is statutorily unable to consent, the action is categorized as criminal rape even if the minor gave his or her actual consent.

Property Crimes

Although property crimes are generally considered to be a separate category of offenses, criminal laws have designated the crime of arson as one type of property crime that is so harmful as to constitute a violent crime. Arson involves the intentional burning of the building of another, often a personal home or property. Since arson is such a destructive crime, it is punished harshly under criminal laws.