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As an introduction to criminal justice, look to the root of the subject: crime. There are five general categories of crime, each at their own level of severity. However, there are eight general characteristics of a crime. Also, the essence of crime is related through the three conjoined elements of crime.

To introduce the concept of criminal justice, one must have an understanding of crime. In order to understand all that crime entails, one must know what is considered a crime and the features of crime. Also, it is important to understand the critical elements of crime and the seriousness of various offenses.

Crime can be broken into five general categories, each having their own level of seriousness. The most serious category of crime is treason and espionage1. These crimes are felonies, which is a category of crime all its own, but the seriousness of these crimes causes them to be broken into a separate category because the penalty minimum is five years1. General felonies are the next category of crime, and these are also very serious crimes1. Felonies carry a minimum penalty of one year in prison1. Felonies, including treason and espionage, are the only crimes that may warrant the death penatly1.

Inchoate crimes are crimes that can be charged either as felonies or misdemeanors, so they are next in seriousness1. These are crimes that occur as set-up for a larger crime; good examples of these are conspiracy and attempt crimes1. After inchoate crimes comes the less serious crime categories.

The less serious crime categories are misdemeanors and offenses and infractions1. A misdemeanor is the least serious crime that carries a penalty of imprisonment, but the penalty is only up to one year in jail rather than prison1. Offenses and infractions are the least serious category of crime, and the penalties they carry are fines or suspension of a license or privilege1.

Regardless of the category of crime, there are eight general features of crime, and three critical elements are a feature of every crime. The eight general features of crime are: actus reus, mens rea, concurrence of the criminal act and a guilty mind, causation, harm, punishment, and attendant circumstances2. Actus reus is the formal term from criminal act, and mens rea is the formal term for a guilty mind3. Of these features, three are critical elements: actus reus, mens rea, and concurrence of both of these3. The three critical elements will be present in all crimes, and are the very essence of crime3.

  • Legal Beagle: Terri Lynn Coop. Five Categories of Crime and the Rank of Seriousness. Legal Beagle. http://legalbeagle.com/10057965-five-categories-crime-rank-seriousness.html. Accessed April 5, 2017.
  • Pearson: Pearson Education. Summary. Pearson. http://wps.prenhall.com/chet_schmalleger_cjtoday_8/21/5445/1394146.cw/content/index.html. Accessed April 5, 2017.
  • University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing. Criminal Law. 2015 ed. University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing: 2015. http://open.lib.umn.edu/criminallaw/chapter/4-1-criminal-elements/. Accessed April 5, 2017.