Crimes are set forth in criminal statutes, which describe the prohibited conduct, the mental state or intent required for guilt, and the range of possible punishments. The specific acts that qualify as criminal conduct will depend on a particular jurisdiction’s laws, as well what the actual crime is called. Read on for links to common criminal charges as well as a broad overview of criminal law.
Federal, state and local governments enact statutes to criminalize the conduct of particular concern to them. For example, a city may determine that it is a misdemeanor to panhandle, while the federal government decides that it is a federal crime to lie on an immigrant visa application. Some criminal charges have been around for centuries, such as robbery and perjury, while others are added over time. An example is the recent creation of the crime of cyberbullying. Once lawmakers adopt a statute, police officers and prosecutors are responsible for enforcing it.