Crime in Skyrim or The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim are the different illegal activities or actions that players can perform in the world of Skyrim. If a player is caught doing a crime by a witness, the player will incur a bounty and the witness will report the illegal action to the local guards who will try to arrest you. With Skyrim having freedom to do what you like in the game, players can still have several options to resolve the matter when they are approached by a guard, but these several options only become available through story or character progression — resisting an arrest can turn into a hostile situation between the NPCs and the player.

Crime and Punishment in Skyrim

The following actions are considered crimes and are reported if you are detected: Stealing items or horses, pickpocketing an item, picking a lock, trespassing, starting a fight (defending yourself is not a crime), or killing a non-aggressive character.

When a crime is reported, a Bounty is placed on your head for the city or town you are in. The amount of the Bounty depends on the seriousness of the crime you commit. Anyone that sees you commit a crime will become a witness. If you manage to eliminate all witnesses to a crime shortly after it has been committed, the Bounty will not take effect.

With a Bounty, guards will approach and arrest you. If you run, they’ll come after you. If you escape to a different city or town where you do not have a Bounty, the guards there will ignore you. If you are caught by the guards, you typically have the following options:

  • Pay off your Bounty and Avoid Jail. Any stolen items in your inventory will be removed, including items you stole while undetected.
  • Resist Arrest. Guards will attack you if you resist. If you escape, the Bounty will remain on your head in that city or town, and guards will try to arrest you if you return. If you yield by sheathing your sword, the guards may stop attacking you depending on your reputation, though they will still arrest you.
  • Go to Jail and Avoidd a Fine. If you go to jail, you can attempt to pick the lock of your jail cell and escape undetected. To serve your time, activate the bed in your cell and you will appear outside when your time is served. Your progress towards skill increases is lost depending on how long your sentence is.

Pickpocketing in Skyrim

You must be sneaking to pickpocket. Approach the target and activate them to bring up their inventory. Select an item to steal it, or an item from you inventory to plant it on them. If you are successful, the item will be added to your inventory. If you are detected while pickpocketing, a crime will be reported and you will not take the item.

  • The higher your Pickpocket skill, the lower the chance you’ll be caught. Just looking at a character’s inventory is not a crime.

Actions that are Illegal in Skyrim

There are several actions that are considered as a crime in Skyrim. If anyone witnesses the player doing any of the following action, guards will come and confront the player.

  • Assault (except brawls).
  • Disturbing the jarl's peace.
  • Eating a corpse.
  • Feeding as a vampire.
  • Killing domestic animals.
  • Lockpicking.
  • Murder (Would not apply when self-defending, however, self-defending from guards is still a crime)
  • Pickpocketing (looking at people's inventory without taking anything is not consider as a crime).
  • Stealing items or horses.
  • Transforming into a Werewolf or Vampire Lord form, or transforming back into your natural form
  • Trespassing.


Crimes Guide for Skyrim

Consequences for Crimes


Bounties will be shown on the General Stats page once the player gets caught for a crime. Different crime holds a different amount of Bounty

  • Assault: 40 gold
  • Disturbing the jarl's peace: 10 gold
  • Jail Break: 100 gold
  • Forging a business ledger: 100 gold
  • Forging the prison registry in Dragonsreach: 250 Gold
  • Horse theft: 50 gold per mount
  • Murder: 1000 gold
  • Pickpocketing: 25 gold
  • Theft: Half the stolen item's value
  • Transforming: 1000 gold
  • Trespassing: 5 gold

Crime Gold

  • When player drops a weapon in a town, guards may come and warn the player, choosing the option "Yes,but I don't care" and "I'm not paying your bribe" will add 10 Crime gold to the player
  • However, it does not seem to have any effect upon any NPCs but it does add the amount of crime gold to your bounty

Stolen Items

Stolen items are marked with the word 'Stolen' in your inventory, no matter whether the player stole it without any attention or not.  Any items tagged "stolen" will be confiscated by the guards when player gets arrested. All items that are confiscated will be stored in an evidence chest with an expert or master lock in the jail. Retrieving items will not remove the "stolen" tag. Standard merchants do not accept stolen items. There are several ways to sell the stolen items,

  • Joining the Thieves Guild grants you access to fences who accept trading stolen items.
  • Unlocking the Speech skill's Fence perk allows stolen goods to be sold to any invested merchant.
  • The stolen tag can be cleared selling and rebuying from any fences.
  • Putting the item onto a merchant by pickpocketing and then buying it with the Merchant perk from the Speech perk tree will clear the stolen tag as well.
  • Stolen ingredients consumed in crafting will not transfer its stolen tag to the crafted item.
  • improving or enchanting a stolen item will not clear its stolen status. Stolen items can be used for quests, when player is asked for a specific item, the quest giver will accept stolen items as normal items. Also, stolen crops, ore, firewood can be sold to farmers, mine owners, mill owners, at the same price as normal  merchandise.
  • Pickpocketing multiple items at once, such as pickpocketing 12 arrows from a guard, will result in only one arrow actually being considered stolen. Dropping your arrow stack will separate the arrows into the large stack of legal arrows and the one stolen arrow. If you steal multiple items of the same type, each item considered stolen is tracked separately when dropped.
  • Gold can sometimes be marked as stolen. Stolen gold will be confiscated by guards when arrested. Stolen gold can be used at  every merchant.

Hired Thugs

Even if the player was not seen and there was no witness when the player is committing a crime, the player may still be targeted by Hired Thugs who are sent by the victim.

Arresting a Criminal

  • Guards from the hold in which the bounty applies will attempt to arrest the player.
  • There will be a dialogue for player to choose what way they want to pay for their crime. If player cancels the dialogue, the guards will attack without allowing to pay the fine.
  • Player can use persuasion to ask the guards to ignore it when it is a small crime (under 100 bounty).
  • Players who have joined the Thieves Guild members will have the option to bribe the guard. Successful bribing can advoid stolen items being confiscated.
  • If player is a thane of the hold, you can declare your status and bounty of less than 3000 will immediately be cleared.
  • Player can pay the bounty and give up all your stolen items
  • Can choose to submit and go to jail or resist arrest.

If player's bounty is above 1000 gold in any hold, a bounty collector may run and confront you even if the bounty is from other hold. He will demand you to pay him an amount of gold equal to your bounty in that hold, plus 20% for his fee. If paid, Player's bounty will be cleared while keeping all the stolen items. Pickpocketing or killing the collector after payment, won't find the bounty gold in his inventory. However, there is a chance that player's bounty may not be cleared even after paying.


When players cannot pay their bounty or decide to submit, they will be transferred to the nearest jail. Player can decide to either serve the sentence or escape from the jail.

Escaping Jail

  • Bounty will remain if player escapes. Players need to find particular methods to escape from certain cells; such as breaking through a weak wall, pickpocketing the jail key from a passing guard, etc.
  • It's also possible to have the guards open your cell door for you by attacking them five times, with shouts, spells, or a Bound Bow. Once enraged, they will unlock your cell door and attack you. Player will have to survive the fight, and it will be difficult to recover confiscated items.

Serving Sentence in Skyrim

  • The player can simply sleep in a cell bed to serve his sentence. Progress towards one or more skill level advancements will be lost the longer player serves the sentence. The maximum sentence is seven days for any bounty 700 or higher.

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    • Anonymous

      What happens if you literally serve your sentence; like just wait a few weeks why waiting 24 hours over and over

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