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Types and degrees of crime

The following vocabulary is useful for understanding and discussing types and degrees of crime.

NOTE: There are hundreds of different types of crime – the list below covers only the words we think will be most useful in your IELTS test!

  • White collar crime – this refers to non-violent crimes done for money, generally by business and government professionals.
  • Homicide – a more formal (legal) term for murder
  • Larceny – a more formal (legal) term for theft
  • Arson – setting fire to buildings or other property
  • Embezzlement – taking money which the person has been trusted to look after (commonly when people steal money from the company they work for)
  • Forgery – making illegal copies of official documents
  • Fraud – to deceive (trick) someone for illegal gain
  • Hate crime – a crime against a person because of a social group they are considered to belong to (could be race, colour, religion etc)

Degrees of crime

  • Misdemeanour – A minor crime, punishable by a fine or a light jail term
  • Felony [US English] – a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year.
  • Infraction – generally used to describe minor crimes when the law has been broken (e.g. riding a bicycle at night without lights – it’s breaking the law, but you’re not going to prison for it!)