Being accused of any type of crime is a grave matter, but being accused of a violent crime takes things to an entirely different level. Violent crimes are by definition serious, and those who are found guilty often face a considerable amount of jail time. But what exactly is a violent crime and how does it differ from other types of crime?

Violent Crime

violent crime

Often a violent crime starts out as a simple altercation that quickly escalates out of control, resulting in threats, violence, and, eventually, police involvement. Exactly what constitutes a violent crime will vary from state to state, but all agree upon the general definition: a violent crime is one in which one person intentionally inflicts bodily harm upon another, and even the threat of harm can be considered a violent crime in most states.

Murder and Manslaughter

When it comes to violent crimes, the first thing one usually thinks of is homicide. Homicide is the act of killing another person, but is not necessarily a criminal act and thus may not be a violent crime. However, murder and manslaughter will typically fall under the category of violent crime, although some states consider them under a separate category of criminal law. As far as the difference between manslaughter and murder, manslaughter does not involve malice and forethought, but murder does. It is obvious, therefore, that murder is a much more serious charge than manslaughter.


One of the most common types of violent crimes is assault, which is a term we often hear but may not know the legal definition of. In the state of Pennsylvania, assault occurs when a person either attempts to cause or actually causes bodily injury to another and does so intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly; or when a person negligently causes bodily injury using a deadly weapon; when a person attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. Using a hypodermic needle in an attack on a law enforcement officer or employee of a correctional institution or mental hospital is also included in the legal definition of assault. Note that assault includes a threat that makes someone fear that harm is imminent. You may also have heard of aggravated assault; an assault is considered aggravated if the threat of harm involves a deadly weapon or is particularly offensive.

Theft and Robbery

Robbery, which is theft in combination with the use of force, is considered a violent crime. This is consistent with the definition of violent crime, which involves harm or the threat of harm. Also, keep in mind that the use of force does not necessarily mean that physical contact must occur; force includes words and actions. In addition, even the use of slight force is still enough for a charge of robbery to be applicable.


Another example of a violent crime is kidnapping, the unlawful carrying away and subsequent confinement of someone against their will. To be considered a kidnapping, there are requirements that must be met, which include a minimum distance that the victim is transported and that their access to outside communication is withheld. Note that there can be various purposes for kidnapping, such as terrorizing someone, inflicting injury, or collecting a ransom.

Sexual Crimes

Sexual crimes are most often categorized as violent crimes. Rape is defined as a type of battery that involves sexual contact without consent. That contact may be physically violent, or there may be emotional manipulation involved, or the victim may have been unable to consent.

sexual abuse violent crime

“Sexual assault” is more of an umbrella term that covers various sexual crimes including rape and indecent assault. Another type of sexual crime that is categorized as violent is statutory sexual assault, which involves an adult having sexual contact with an individual who is below the state’s official age of consent.

Domestic Abuse and Child Abuse

Both domestic abuse and child abuse are categorized as violent crimes. Domestic abuse is legally defined as harmful conduct enacted against family members or someone who shares a close relationship with the abuser. Many states consider emotional abuse, kidnapping, and sexual abuse of children to be forms of child abuse and thus categorize them as violent crimes. However, in Pennsylvania domestic violence is not considered a separate charge from something like assault or aggravated assault. Once the police respond to a call from a victim, the accused is arrested and it is then up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not charges are to be pressed.


arson violent crime

In many states, arson is also considered a violent crime because of its destructive nature. Legally, arson is defined as the intentional burning of a building belonging to someone else. The types of buildings included under this definition include homes and personal buildings as well as commercial or industrial buildings. What makes arson a violent crime in Pennsylvania is when it endangers someone’s life.


Certain aspects of a crime will cause it to be classified as a violent crime, with the main characteristics being the infliction of bodily harm or the threat of bodily harm. For example, a simple theft can quickly escalate to robbery if there are threats of harm, and things get even worse if there is a weapon involved that is used against the victim. Other types of violent crimes include murder, assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, and arson.

Don’t Wait — Contact Robert L. Schwarz Today!

If you or someone you care about is accused of a violent crime, contact the law offices of Robert L. Schwarz without delay. Using my experience as both a private criminal attorney and a former Delaware County public defender, I will aggressively pursue the best possible outcome for your case. I have successfully defended many clients charged with violent crimes. I look forward to hearing from you!