A crime refers to an act that breaks the law and this will result to an appropriate punishment. In the event that you violate a law or breach a rule, then you are considered to have committed a criminal offense. Crimes are categorized into two types – property crime and violent crime.
This type of crime is committed to you when someone damages, destroys or steals your property. Good examples are stealing of a car and vandalizing an establishment. This type of crime has the highest percentage of occurrence in the United States.
Violent crimes, on the other hand, occur when someone harms, threatens or conspires to harm you or anybody else. This type of crime involves force or threat of force. The most common violent crimes committed in the country include rape, murder, robbery and kidnapping.
Some crimes can be categorized as both property and violent crimes. A good example is carjacking a vehicle at gunpoint or conducting robbery at a convenience store using a handgun as a weapon.
Federal, State and Local Laws
Society has a system of laws used to determine if an act is a crime. There are three separate systems of laws in the United States and these are federal, state and local systems.
Federal Law – this system is run by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The laws passed by the Congress apply to everyone living in the country. There are instances when a federal law is in conflict with the state or local law of a certain place. When this happens, the federal law is generally followed.
State Law – this system is ruled by elected legislators and may greatly vary from state to state. Drunk driving is considered illegal in the United States but the punishment for each state is different. Another example is the gun laws followed in all 50 states – there is variation from one state to another.
Local Law – this is usually referred to as ordinances because it is passed by the local county or governing bodies of a specific city. Local laws or ordinances usually rule how the residents of a specific community should behave. For example, a local no smoking ordinance may prohibit the citizens of Mississippi from smoking in public but it will not affect the residents of the other 49 states.
Ignorance of the Law
There is usually intent to break the law for an individual to commit a criminal offense. However, there are instances that a person is unaware of the law when he or she commits the act and is therefore charged with a crime. Always remember though, that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. So always be aware of the laws that apply in the place where you are.