Common Criminal Offenses A to Z

Find Quick Definitions for Crimes From A to Z

Handcuffed man standing in courtroom
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Crimes can be committed against persons or property, but all crimes carry a punishment for those who break the law. Federal, state and local governments pass laws to establish what is acceptable behavior and what is not acceptable behavior within society.

The following is a list of some common crimes, felonies, and misdemeanors, with the most general explanations of the crimes. Click on the links below to read detailed descriptions of each of these crimes:

 A person is an accessory when they solicit, requests, commands, pursues or intentionally aids another person to engage in conduct that constitutes an offense.

Aggravated Assault
Aggravated assault is causing or attempting to cause serious bodily harm to another or using a deadly weapon during a crime. 

Aiding and Abetting
The crime of aiding and abetting is when a person willfully "aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures" the commission of a crime. 

Arson is when a person intentionally burns a structure, building, land or property.

Criminal assault is defined as an intentional act that results in a person becoming fearful of imminent bodily harm.

The crime of battery is any unlawful physical contact with another person, including offensive touching.  

Bribery is the act of offering or receiving compensation for the purpose of influencing any person who is responsible for performing a public or legal duty.

A burglary occurs when someone illegally enters almost any kind of structure for the purpose of committing an illegal action. 

Child Abuse
Child abuse is any act or failure to act that results in the harm, potential for harm or the threat of harm to a child.

Child Pornography
The crime of child pornography includes the possession, production, distribution or sale of sexual images or videos that exploit or portray children.


Computer Crime
The Department of Justice defines computer crime as,"Any illegal act for which knowledge of computer technology is essential for successful prosecution."

The crime of conspiracy is when two or more people get together to plan to commit a crime with the intent of committing that crime.

Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud is committed when a person uses a credit or debit card illegally to obtain funds from an account or to get merchandise or services without paying.

Disorderly Conduct
A broad term used to charge anyone whose behavior is a public nuisance. 

Disturbing the Peace
Disturbing the peace involves particular behavior that disturbs the overall order of a public place or gathering. 

Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is when one member of a household inflicts bodily harm upon another member of the same household.

Drug Cultivation or Manufacturing
Illegally cultivating, producing or possessing plants, chemicals or equipment used for the purpose of producing drugs.

Drug Possession
The crime of drug possession occurs when someone willfully possesses any illegal controlled substance.

Drug Trafficking or Distribution
Both a federal and state crime, drug distribution includes the selling, transportation or importing of illegal controlled substances.

Drunk Driving
A person is charged with drunk driving when they operate a motorized vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Embezzlement is when a responsible party misappropriates the money or property that is entrusted to them.

Extortion is a crime that occurs when someone obtains money, property or services through an act of coercion.

Forgery includes falsifying documents, signatures, or faking an object of value with the purpose of committing fraud.

Fraud is committed when a person uses deception or misrepresentation for financial or personal gain.

Unwanted behavior that is intended to annoy, disturb, alarm, torment, upset or terrorize an individual or group.

Hate Crime
The FBI defines a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Identity Theft
The Justice Department defines identity theft as, "all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain."

Insurance Fraud
Insurance fraud is when a person attempts to obtain payment from an insurance company under false premises. 

The crime of kidnapping is committed when a person is illegally confined or moved from one place to another against their will

Money Laundering
According to the federal law, money laundering occurs when someone attempts to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or the control of the proceeds of unlawful activity.

Usually classified as first-degree or second-degree, the crime of murder is the willful taking of another person's life.

Perjury occurs when a person gives false information when under oath.

A person can be charged with prostitution when they are compensated in exchange for a sexual act.

Public Intoxication
Someone drunk or under the influence of drugs in a public place can be charged with public intoxication.

Rape occurs when someone forces sexual contact with another person without their consent.

Robbery involves the act of stealing from another person by the use of physical force or by putting the victim in fear of death or injury. 

Sexual Assault
Although definition varies by state, generally it occurs when a person or persons commit a sexual act without the consent of the victim.

Stealing merchandise from a retail store or business.

Solicitation is the offering of compensation for goods or services that are prohibited by law. 

The crime of stalking occurs when a person, over time, follows, harasses or watches another person.

Statutory Rape
Statutory rape occurs with an adult has sex with a minor who is under the age of consent. The age of consent varies by state.

Tax Evasion
Tax evasion involves taking deliberate actions to conceal or misrepresent a person's or business' income, profits or financial gains or to inflate or falsify tax deductions.

Theft is a general term that can describe various forms of larceny, including burglary, looting, shoplifting, embezzlement, fraud and criminal conversion.

The crime of vandalism occurs when a person intentionally damages property that does not belong to them.

Wire Fraud
Almost always a federal crime, wire fraud is the illegal activity that takes place over any interstate wires for the purpose of committing fraud.