Merriam-Webster defines the word crime as “an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government.” Simply put, a crime is a violation of local, state, or federal law. Criminal offenses can range from shoplifting to murder. Sentences can range from community service all the way to the death penalty. Although there are many different criminal acts, too many to list in one blog, they can be divided into six main categories. Understanding the types of criminal offenses can help a person gain insight into what sets them apart and why they are penalized so differently.
1. Crimes Against a Person
This is the most serious category of criminal offenses. Crimes against a person are offenses that cause bodily harm or mental anguish to another human being. Violent crimes like assault, battery, and domestic violence fall under this category. Homicide is also a crime against a person, claiming their very life, and it may be charged at different levels depending on intent and premeditation. Murder and manslaughter are both considered criminal homicide.
The following is a partial list of crimes against a person:
- Assault and battery
- Child abuse
- Sexual assault
Crimes against a person typically carry the harshest penalties. A person convicted of such an offense could face misdemeanor or felony charges with penalties ranging from jail time to years or even decades in prison, plus heavy fines. In Florida, the death penalty may be enforced for a person convicted of capital murder, which is the most serious crime against a person. Since 1971, 99 people have been executed for murder in Florida, and as of July 2021, 327 more are awaiting execution.
2. Crimes Against Property
Typically considered a less serious category of criminal offense, crimes against property do not involve harming another person. They instead involve defacing, destroying, or stealing property.
The following is a partial list of crimes against property:
- Theft (larceny)
- Grand theft
- Auto theft
- Destruction of property
In Florida, crimes against property are penalized depending on the value of the property, the type of offense, and the offender’s criminal history, if any. The type of property can also influence charges and sentencing. With theft charges, for example, if the value of property stolen was $750 or more, this is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the property was worth less than $750, this is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
3. Crimes Against Morality
Sometimes called victimless crimes, crimes against morality are offenses that are not committed against a person or property. Instead, they are committed against accepted social and moral values. They are against the law and are therefore punishable by fines, imprisonment, or other terms as determined by statute.
The following is a partial list of crimes against morality:
- Illegal gambling
- Illegal drug use
- Indecent exposure
The penalties for crimes against morality in Florida may range from fines to years in prison, depending on the offense itself. A first prostitution offense, for example, is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Heroin possession for personal use is also punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
4. Statutory Crimes
Technically speaking, statutory crimes involve all criminal offenses because they are all forbidden by statute. In this sense, however, we refer to statutory crimes as those acts that are prohibited for the protection and/or betterment of society. Drug crimes, alcohol-related crimes, and traffic offenses all fall under this category. Crimes against morality may also be considered statutory crimes.
The following is a partial list of statutory crimes:
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Boating under the influence (BUI)
- Drug possession, sale, or distribution
- Drug cultivation or manufacturing
- Public intoxication
- Selling alcohol to a minor
- Refusing a breath/blood test
- Driving without a license
- Reckless driving
- Hit and run
In Florida, the penalties for statutory offenses are broad. A first DUI offense, for example, is punishable by no more than 6 months in jail and a fine of $500 to $2,000. Manufacturing or trafficking large amounts of drugs, such as 1 kilo of cocaine, is punishable by at least 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Penalties will vary depending on the offense itself and any mitigating or aggravating factors.
5. Financial/White Collar Crimes
White collar crimes are often financial in nature and occur in the business world. They are nonviolent but are not necessarily victimless, as they can cause people and businesses to suffer significant financial losses.
The following is a partial list of white collar crimes:
- Insider trading
- Securities fraud
- Investment fraud
- Tax evasion
- Mortgage fraud
- Identity theft
- Money laundering
- Public corruption
- Corporate fraud
- Bank fraud
- Election law violations
- Healthcare fraud
Many white collar crimes may be prosecuted on a state or federal level, and this makes the potential penalties far greater. Bank fraud, as an example, is a federal crime that’s punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) investigates and prosecutes tax evasion offenses, which are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000—plus whatever taxes are owed. Cases like these are often highly complex and may involve federal investigations lasting months or even years.
6. Inchoate Crimes
The thought of being arrested and punished for a crime you didn’t actually commit may seem like something out of a movie like Minority Report, but this brings us to our last category of criminal offenses: inchoate crimes. These include crimes that were initiated but not completed, and acts undertaken in the commission of another crime. Inchoate crimes go further than mere intent. If a person intends to commit a crime and then takes a step toward completing it, they can still be charged. An example may be conspiring to commit a crime.
The following is a partial list of inchoate crimes:
- Aiding and abetting
Some inchoate crimes, like attempt, merge into the intended crime and cannot be charged or penalized independently. Others, like conspiracy, are their own separate crimes. For example, a person cannot be charged with attempt and murder, but they could be charged with conspiracy and murder.
The penalties for inchoate crimes in Florida will depend on the intended crime and the offense itself. Conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, for instance, is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. Conspiracy to commit a felony is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $5,000. Conspiracy to commit a capital felony, like first-degree murder, is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Choose Leading Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you have been arrested for any type of criminal offense, what you do and say next will impact the outcome of your case. Listen to your Miranda rights. Remain silent. Exercise your right to an attorney. You may be innocent until proven guilty, but law enforcement and the prosecution are not going to treat you that way. What’s your best opportunity of avoiding a conviction and the serious penalties this may bring? Involving an experienced attorney as early in the process as possible.
Thomas & Paulk, P.A. has been representing Floridians in criminal matters for the past 20 years. We have personally handled over 7,000 criminal cases. We know what we’re doing, and it shows in the results we’ve been able to secure through the years. When you work with our Tampa criminal defense lawyers, you’re getting an experienced team that will put your interests first.
To learn more, call us at (813) 321-7323 for your free consultation.