Hierarchy Rule | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

The Hierarchy Rule in the context of the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program is a protocol that requires law enforcement agencies to report only the most serious offense that occurs during a single criminal incident.

The UCR program is a national system that collects and compiles data on crimes reported to law enforcement agencies in the United States. The Hierarchy Rule is an important aspect of the UCR program because it helps to ensure that crime statistics are accurately recorded and reported.

Under the Hierarchy Rule, if multiple offenses occur during a single criminal incident, only the most serious offense is reported. The seriousness of an offense is determined based on a hierarchy of offenses, with murder and non-negligent manslaughter being the most serious, followed by rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

For example, if a person is robbed and then physically assaulted during the same incident, only the robbery offense would be reported to the UCR program because it is the more serious of the two offenses.

While the Hierarchy Rule has been criticized for potentially underestimating the total number of crimes committed in a given area, it is still widely used by law enforcement agencies. It is an important tool for measuring and tracking crime trends over time.

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Last Modified: 03/06/2023


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