Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 9: Crimes Against the Person

Chapter Overviews

Crimes against the person include homicide, suicide, kidnapping, assault, battery, and rape. They are all serious offenses that can result in harsh punishments.

Homicide Homicide—the killing of one human being by another—is classified as criminal or noncriminal. Murder is the most serious form of criminal homicide. It may be classified as first-degree, felony murder, or second-degree, depending on the level of premeditation that preceded the crime. In voluntary manslaughter, the killer loses control in response to the victim's actions. Although the killer is still responsible for the killing, the law recognizes that the killer had an altered state of mind that may have prevented him or her from acting rationally. Involuntary manslaughter is an accidental killing resulting from a person's careless behavior toward others.

Suicide Suicide is the deliberate taking of one's own life. Courts generally treat attempted suicide as a plea for help and demand that the individual seek treatment. The courts may order a psychological examination or treatment for someone who has attempted suicide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among teenagers.

Kidnapping This crime is sometimes called abduction and involves taking a person away against his or her will.

Assault and Battery The law often treats assault and battery as very similar crimes. Assault is an attempt or threat to carry out a physical attack upon another person. Battery is any unlawful physical contact inflicted by one person upon another person without consent. Even if actual injury does not occur, a person may be charged with battery if he or she intended to harm the other person. These crimes—which include simple assault, stalking, and sexual assault—are classified according to how severe they are.

Rape The law generally has recognized rape and statutory rape as separate crimes. Rape is sexual intercourse without consent. Statutory rape is sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor child. Rape laws recognize that either males or females can commit or be victims of this crime. Many states are replacing their rape laws with criminal sexual assault laws.

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