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What are the Different Types of Illegal Activities?

By N. Ayers
Updated May 16, 2024
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The manner in which different types of illegal activities are classified vary by region because of many factors, including cultural norms. Penalties for a crime committed in one country or region also might differ from the penalties in another region, even if the offenses are identical. Some unlawful actions are also related to other crimes, making the offense more severe. The different types of illegal activities include crimes against people, such as murder, assault or slander; crimes against property, such as theft, vandalism or arson; and crimes of noncompliance, such as failing to pay taxes, driving faster than the speed limit or various "victimless" crimes.

Property crime includes illegal actions such as burglary, theft, shoplifting, arson and vandalism. Although burglary and shoplifting can be generally considered theft, all of these crimes differ in nature. Burglary is the unauthorized entry into another person's home or building with intentions of theft and various other crimes. Theft is an illegal activity that involves the taking of personal property or goods without the owner's consent.

Shoplifting, which is also considered a form of theft, involves taking merchandise from retail stores without paying for the cost of the goods. Arson is also among the different types of illegal activities that falls under the category of property crime. This offense is defined as setting fire to another person's property by accident or malicious behavior or to one's own property under ill intentions, such as insurance fraud. Vandalism is among the most common property crimes, and it involves the act of intentionally damaging public or private property.

Crimes against people can include illegal activities such as murder, rape, sexual assault and assault. Robbery also might be considered a crime against a person, because it is a form of theft that involves taking money or goods from a person or in the presence of another by way of violent force or intimidation. Murder is the unlawful act of deliberately killing another human being.

Rape is sexual penetration by way of force. In some places, such as the country of Jordan, marital rape is legal. This means that a husband or wife can legally rape his or her spouse. The same country enforces a death penalty for non-marital rape, but offenders of this crime can escape punishment by marrying their victim.

The definition of assault varies from place to place. It generally is understood to include touching another person inappropriately, invading his or her personal space or causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon. Sexual assault is the direct contact or contact of a sexual nature through clothing without the other person's consent.

Illegal activities affecting public order or safety are sometimes called victimless crimes because there is no direct harm to another person or any property. These activities are sometimes considered crimes against society because they do not follow the social norms. Public order crimes might include sex work, using or abusing illegal drugs, possession of illegal pornography and lewd acts between adults. Sex work is among the different types of illegal activities that have varying penalties around the world. Street prostitution is legal and regulated to some degree for adults in parts of Mexico, for example, but it is not regulated in other countries and is illegal in others.

Other crimes of noncompliance can vary from place to place as well. The use or possession of drugs such as marijuana is illegal in the United States, with few exceptions, but it is widely accepted in the Netherlands. Some countries guarantee their citizens the right to free speech or the freedom of religion, but speaking out against the government or practicing certain religions can be illegal in other countries.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Ana1234 — On Jul 25, 2014

@Mor - Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand because there needs to be a line somewhere though. Like when it comes to statutory rape. There have been cases where people have argued that someone acted much older or more mature than their age suggested and therefore it shouldn't be considered a crime to sleep with them.

And maybe in one way that's true. A person who is 17 years and 363 days old isn't necessarily any less mature than an 18 year old. But that line has to be drawn somewhere, because it doesn't work for it to shift with every person.

By Mor — On Jul 24, 2014

@browncoat - The problem with drunk driving is that it is a matter of degrees. If someone actually has intent to maim or kill someone else that's one thing. If they commit a crime of passion, that's another. But a crime of negligence is difficult to draw the line.

Different countries have different blood alcohol limits. Different people have different limits. Different situations call for different reactions. Not to mention that when you're drinking you aren't exactly in your own right mind.

I do think people who drive drunk should be prevented from being allowed to drive if they do it more than once. But I don't think it should necessarily be treated like murder.

By browncoat — On Jul 24, 2014

I wish that they wouldn't call things like speeding "victim-less crimes." They are crimes that could have seriously affected a victim, only the criminal got lucky. Even something like tax evasion does actually do a lot to harm the country.

Drunk driving is the one that really gets to me. Because it isn't considered to be one of those illegal activities that deserves too much more than a warning, unless it ends up killing someone.

If a person was playing Russian Roulette with pedestrians using a gun, then that would be considered attempted manslaughter. But for some reason getting yourself into your car when you're too drunk to see straight isn't considered to be on the same level, even though eventually the consequences will be the same.

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