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Types of Punishment for Criminal Activity

Cite this article as: Jason Mance Gordon, "Types of Punishment for Criminal Activity," in The Business Professor, updated January 5, 2015, last accessed April 7, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/knowledge-base/types-of-punishment-for-criminal-activity/.
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Types of Criminal Punishment
This video explains the various types of punishment allowed for criminal offenses.

Next Article: Theories Behind Criminal Punishment


What types of punishment exist for criminal activity?

Criminal statutes carry numerous forms of punishment or sanction for criminal conduct including:

  • Fines – These are monetary penalties placed on someone convicted of criminal activity.
  • Incarceration – This includes the physical detention of an individual.
  • Other Loss of Rights or Privileges – Other losses of rights or privileges pursuant to criminal conduct include:
    • the right to vote,
    • the right to own a firearm, and
    • the privilege of driving.

These punishments are not exclusive. Criminal conduct may carry multiple punishments.

Discussion: Do you believe that criminal punishments are fair across all crimes in the United States? More specifically, are the criminal sanctions for white-collar crimes just in comparison to criminal sanctions for the sale for illegal drugs?

Discussion Input

There is certainly a noted disparity in the severity of punishment across crimes. This is very notable in white-collar crimes involving fraud or embezzlement. An executive or fund manager that steals millions of dollars may face a less severe punishment than an individual who commits a burglary or vehicle theft. Another example would be the far stiffer penalties associated with crack (concentrated cocaine often smoked by low-income drug abusers) than cocaine (more commonly used by individuals from higher socioeconomic classes).

Practice Question: Victor is charged with domestic abuse of his wife. The police have evidence that Victor physically attacked his wife on multiple occasions. The charges are a felony in Victor’s state. If convicted, what are the possible penalties Victor could face for this illegal conduct?

Proposed Answer

  • The state could charge Victor under general criminal statutes, such as assault or any specific statute making domestic violence illegal. This could lead to imprisonment, probation, criminal fines, or a restraining order against contacting his wife.  Generally, domestic abuse is a state crime. Though, it may also constitute a federal crime. Under the Violence Against Women Act case, the court must order restitution for the perpetrator to pay the victim the full amount of loss. These losses include costs for medical or psychological care, physical therapy, transportation, temporary housing, and child care expenses, loss of income, attorney’s fees, costs incurred in obtaining a civil protection order, and any other losses suffered by the victim as a result of the offense. However, the court can also order incarceration where the perpetrator inflicted body injuries to the victim.  https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/victim-witness-program/federal-domestic-violence-laws

Academic Research

Husak, Douglas N., Kinds of Punishment (April 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2979458 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2979458

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