Crime and Punishment - English for Police
This page from our English for Police section covers language police need when talking about crimes and punishments in an English-speaking context.
A crime is a serious offence such as murder or robbery. A punishment is a penalty imposed on somebody who is convicted of a crime. A punishment could be, for example, time in prison or a fine.
There is an important difference between criminal law and civil law. Criminal law deals with matters such as robbery or murder for which people can go to jail. Civil law deals with matters such as business contracts or divorce. The police are not normally involved in civil law.
Questions from law-breakers or suspected criminals
- Why did you pull me over?
- Have I done something wrong?
- Is this illegal?
- What are my rights?
- Can I call a lawyer?
- Where are you taking me?
- Can I make a phone call?
Questions police may ask a suspected criminal
- Are you carrying any illegal drugs?
- Do you have a weapon?
- Does this belong to you?
- Whose car is this?
- Where were you at eight last night?
Informing someone of laws and police procedures
- You are under arrest.
- Put your hands on your head.
- I am taking you to the police station.
- Please get in the police car.
- You will have to pay a fine for this.
- I will give you a warning this time.
- I'm going to write you a ticket.
- We'll tow your car to the station.
- Smoking in restaurants is illegal in this country.
- It is against the law to do drugs in public.
Types of crime
|abduction/ kidnapping||taking a person to a secret location using force|
|armed robbery||using a weapon to steal|
|arson||setting fire to a place on purpose|
|assault||hurting another person physically|
|attempted murder||trying to kill someone (but failing)|
breaking and entering
|going into another person's home or business with force|
|child abuse||injuring a child on purpose|
|domestic violence||physical assault that occur within the home|
|drug trafficking||trading illegal drugs|
|drunk driving||driving after having too much alcohol|
|fraud||lying or cheating for business or monetary purposes|
|hijacking||holding people in transit hostage (usually on a plane)|
|murder/ homicide||taking someone's life through violence|
|shoplifting||stealing merchandise from a store|
|smuggling||bringing products into a country secretly and illegally|
|speeding||driving beyond the speed limit|
|terrorism||acts of crime against a group (political/religious) or another country|
|torture||extremely cruel and unfair treatment (often towards prisoners)|
|vandalism||damaging public or private property (for example with spray paint)|
|white collar crime||breaking the law in business|
Types of punishment
|leaves marks on driving record/involves paying a fine|
|driving rights are removed for a certain period of time|
(hunting out of season)
|pay money as punishment for minor/petty crime|
(a young offender who is waiting to go to court)
|remain in one's home for a certain period of time|
(a youth that steals a car for the first time)
|do volunteer work such as teaching children about crime or cleaning up garbage|
(man who assaults his wife)
|spend a certain amount of months or years locked away from society|
|life in prison
(a woman who commits homicide)
|spend the rest of one's life in prison with no chance of going back into society|