A crime is an unlawful act which a guard can reprimand you for committing. Upon being caught for a crime, you are given the option to Pay the bounty, go to prison, or resist arrest. To be able to distinguish if entering a door or taking an item is a crime, hover your cursor over the object. If it becomes a red hand Red-hand, it is considered unlawful to enter the door or touch the item.

List of crimesEdit

From least to most serious with their bounty value.

  • Grabbing an item: Half of the item's value (always rounded up, and always at least 1 septim) GoldIcon
  • Trespassing: 5 GoldIcon
  • Theft: Half of the item's value (Always at least 1 GoldIcon)
  • Pickpocketing 25 GoldIcon
  • Assault: 40 GoldIcon
  • Escaping from jail: 50 GoldIcon Death Penalty (if you cannot escape the prison area)
  • Stealing a Horse: 250 GoldIcon
  • Murder: 1000 GoldIcon

Understanding Crimes and BountiesEdit

The game differentiates between committing a crime, and receiving a bounty. For example, attacking any NPC unprovoked is considered an assault by the game; however, not all assaults will gain you a bounty. There must be a guard nearby to witness the crime before you will be charged with committing it. Technically speaking, there is a hidden setting on all NPCs called Responsibility that affects their criminal behavior. NPCs with lower values are more likely to commit crimes (for example, all fences have a low Responsibility). Any NPC with the maximum Responsibility of 100, which primarily includes the city guards and the named guard NPCs, can add bounty to your character. Guards within about 140 feet of a witness will respond to an alarm. (Only actual guards can arrest you, though.)

The guard can see your crime first-hand, or he can hear about it from other witnesses nearby. Such witnesses will yell out an alarm, such as "There's a madman on the loose!" (assault), or "Stop! Thief!" (pickpocket) when they want to report crime to the guards. Not all NPCs will raise an alarm. For example, most of the companion characters you obtain after completing side quest lines will rarely raise an alarm against you. If you commit a crime out of both sight and hearing range of any guards, or if there's no alarm raised, you will not get a bounty. The only way to detect that you committed a crime in these cases is to check your journal, which will increment your crime counters anyway.

Guards Edit

Any guard who witnesses a crime in progress can place a bounty on your head. Guards can also hear alarms raised by other NPCs. Once a guard hears such an alarm, it behaves exactly as if he had seen the crime himself. Once a guard detects your crime, it is "reported" to the authorities across all of Cyrodiil instantly. Even if the guard witnesses all die (such as during a large-scale battle), they have already reported your crime across the province.

If you have a bounty on your head, any guard you encounter will know about it. If another hostile guard is still chasing you, any other guards you encounter will become hostile as well. If you manage to outrun all of your pursuers (that is, no guard detects you any longer), you will no longer trigger an automatic arrest around new guards. If you speak to them, however, they will be aware of your crime and attempt to make you pay.

Note that any witnesses to your crime may lower their disposition towards you, even if you are not caught by a guard. Generally speaking, if you commit a crime against someone whom the witnesses have a high disposition towards, their disposition towards you will lower. The victim may be either the target of the crime, or the owner of the objects or room that were the target of the crime. If the victim himself sees you, and survives, their disposition will lower by twice as much as any other witness.

Theft and Pickpocketing Edit

Both theft and pickpocketing involve taking items that do not belong to you. Theft occurs if you take an object from the world, or from a container, and is punished based on the value of the item. Pickpocketing involves taking items from an NPC's inventory, and is punished a fixed amount. Even attempting to pickpocket someone is a crime, if they detect you. In both cases, if you are sneaking when trying to take the item (which is always the case with pickpocketing), the weight and size of the object determines how likely you are to be detected. As a special case, pickpocketed gold, even though it weighs nothing, is very likely to be detected. Each item you take is another occurrence of the crime; for pickpocketing, each item you take causes another chance to be detected by your victim.

Stolen items are permanently marked as such in your inventory, and most merchants won't buy them. Only merchants with a very low responsibility level will even consider buying stolen goods. Primarily, this means fences for the Thieves' Guild, but a few other merchants, including the Dunbarrow Cove pirates, will also deal with them. Only selling to sanctioned guild fences counts towards your fenced items total for the Thieves' Guild quests.

Note that picking open a locked chest or container, by itself, is not a crime. You need to actually remove an object from the container to count as a theft.

Assault and Murder Edit

Not all attacks constitute an assault. If the NPC becomes hostile and attacks you, even if they have not actually struck you yet, there is no crime in attacking them in response. It is never a crime to attack a non-NPC creature, and certain NPC characters are considered "evil" enough that its not a crime to attack them, regardless of their actions against you.

Otherwise, any attack on an NPC is a crime. By definition, this includes any attempt to sneak attack someone. Attacking allied NPCs accidentally is also an assault; however, they will not report you to a guard immediately. If you attack an ally in direct sight of a guard, you will usually still get a bounty. In some cases, particularly when the guards are following you for a quest, they will ignore your crime the first time, even if they see it. Allies will warn you three times that you have accidentally hit them, before turning hostile and calling for guards.

If you kill any non-hostile NPC, it is considered murder. Again, this includes potentially hostile NPCs, if you manage to kill them before they become hostile. As an example, killing the Mythic Dawn sleeper agents who have not yet become hostile towards you is murder. This can cause problems during battles with multiple allies and guards present. If you accidentally kill an ally with a single attack, and any guard sees you, all guards immediately become hostile towards you. Even if the witnessing guards all die, as soon as any other guard detects you, they will attempt to arrest you. Unlike assaults, there is never any leeway granted for accidentally murdering an ally. Lastly, your first murder, detected or not, intentional or otherwise, will always be detected by the Dark Brotherhood and trigger a visit during your next nap.

There is a glitch in the game that makes murder counter-intuitive. To commit murder, you must be directly responsible dealing the last point of health damage, the key words here being "directly" and "last point." For example, a spell cast from your bare hand that does damage over time that kills the NPC is (of course) murder, but if you poison or enchant a weapon with a damage over time effect, and the poison or enchantment kills the NPC gradually, then the game will attribute the NPC's death to the poison or enchantment, rather than the person who stuck the NPC, and so you will only have a 40 gold assault bounty. The same thing applies if you feed the NPC a poisoned apple, have it put on a cursed enchantment, or shove the NPC off a cliff or into a pit of lava, because you are responsible for the murder, but not directly so. This "loophole" of sorts will help you complete quests where you must see to an NPC's death, because most of the time, the game doesn't care about how the NPC died, only whether or not he does die.

However, this loophole also has a bad side to it. If your ally is in battle, and is down to one single health point when he gets in the way of your shot, killing him, you are still guilty of murder, even though your enemy did most of the dirty work. Also, if your summoned creature kills or assaults an NPC, you will still be guilty of the crime, even though you were not directly responsible for it.

Trespassing Edit

If a guard sees you trespassing, you immediately receive the trespass bounty. Other NPCs, however, will usually give you some leeway. On occasion, trespassing around "off-duty" guards will also not immediately trigger a bounty, though in most cases it will. Non-guard NPCs will warn you a number of times to leave the area, and will follow you around until you do so. If you continue to trespass in their line of sight, they will become increasingly hostile. After a short period of time, usually around three minutes, the NPC will determine that you are intentionally trespassing, and become hostile. They will call for guards, if any are nearby, and will attack you. If no guards are nearby, you can flee the area without receiving a bounty. Once you are back in a public area, you should not receive a bounty even if your attacker follows you there.

Note that trespassing does not depend directly on bypassing locked doors. Simply picking open a locked door, by itself, is not a crime. However, in most cases, locked doors lead to owned rooms, and entering such a room is trespassing. As soon as you finish picking the door's lock, you go through the door into the room beyond, and have now committed a crime. A guard which sees you go through the door will know you are trespassing and try to arrest you. However, it is possible for a door to be locked, but the room beyond be public (the door icon is not red); it is also possible for an unlocked door to still lead to an area that is off limits. In such cases, the room, not the door lock, determines if you are breaking the law.


Whenever resisting arrest or avoiding to pay the penalty for crime, guards around Cyrodiil will confront you or attack you, if you've already resisted arrest. It is difficult to defeat town guards, especially when there are many of them and they replenish their armies if you return. Fast traveling to another city does not help your cause.

Dealing with the bountyEdit

Paying the bountyEdit

Paying the bounty will remove the money from your inventory and you will avoid jail time. Any stolen items you may have will also be lifted from your possession. If you do not have enough gold to pay your bounty you only choices will be jail or ressist arrest.


When thrown in jail, you will find yourself in the local stockade. You are able to hide one lockpick. If successful in escaping from prison, you will have to sneak past or kill the guards in the jail and city, and escape to your location of choice. However, you will not have any of your items, and will have to retrieve them from the Evidence Chest in the prison. It should be noted that even quest items are removed from your inventory, so if you are going to attempt to escape prison, you had better get the quest items from the evidence chest, otherwise you will never be able to complete those quests.

Note that the locks on the cell door are always "hard" or "very hard," which means that, if you have an Open Hard Lock spell (which the guards cannot take away), you can cast that to avoid breaking your one lockpick.

If not, you can "use" the bed and serve your time in jail. Once done you will be returned outside with your items back. If you choose to serve your time, you spend 1 day in prison for every 100 gold of your bounty. For each day you spend in prison, one of your skills will degrade (the skills that are affected are chosen randomly; you could lose a single point from several skills, several points from a single skill, or a combination of the two); randomly, Sneak or Security skills may be chosen, and will raise instead. You can't lose (or gain, in the case of Security and Sneak) more than 10 skill points in a single jail sentence.

Your equipment will be returned to you, except for stolen items, which are kept locked in the Evidence Chest in the prison. All quest items will be returned to you, even if they are stolen.

Going to jail can allow additional levels even when a character's attributes or skills are at maximum, when the total Major skill reduction reaches ten. This can be used to make up for inefficient levelling or increase level beyond what is normally possible.

There are numerous 'companion' bugs that bring NPCs that were once part of your party to the jail entrance when you leave; the first the player is likely to encounter are the Cheydinhal Fighters Guild NPCs from The Desolate Mine quest.

Resisting arrestEdit

Upon choosing to resist arrest, the guard which you are speaking to (as well as any others within earshot) will attack immediately. You will either have to kill all the guards in the vicinity, yield to one of them (usually only possible with the local captain) and choose one of the above stated options, or run and somehow get to a Doyen in the Thieves Guild to pay your bounty (this can be difficult, as Fast Travel is disabled while the guards are pursuing you).

Another method (if you're a member of any of the guilds) is to head to one of the guildhouses. When the guards attack you, the other members will attack the guards. Find an empty room to hide in while the melee progresses. Afterwards, you'll find the guards bodies where they fell in the guild house (and can take what you like from them). Your bounty will go back to whatever it was for the crime you committed, and you can walk freely about town, ignored by the guards unless you speak to them. If you engage any guard in conversation, he'll once again give you the choices of paying your fine, going to jail, or fleeing.

Another method is to (if you are a member of the Arcane University and if your bounty is less than 1000 Septims) create a spell that charms people 91(at least)(the spell is only needed to be 1 or 2 seconds long) then use it on a guard. Immediately after casting it talk to a guard. He will tell you that because you and him are friends he will take care of it.

Thieves GuildEdit

Other than paying the bounty and jail time, paying half the bounty to a Thieves Guild Doyen will clear your name. This is the only way for you to keep your stolen items without having to resist arrest and risk bloodshed. You must be a Thieves Guild member in order to do this.

NPCs and crimesEdit

NPCs follow the most of the same rules of crimes as the player does, but with one notable exception: They cannot go to jail unless a specific script tells the guard to take it to jail (i.e. the Bust of Lathasa Thieves Guild quest). They must either pay their fine or resist arrest. Like the player, an NPC can only pay its fine if it has the necessary gold in its inventory. If it is even one septim short, it must resist arrest, which usually results in its death, since guards are very strong and come in limitless numbers. The player can choose to give the NPC the necessary gold by bribing him in the persuasion minigame. However, there is a scripting glitch that sometimes prevents an NPC's bounty from being reset to zero automatically. At this point, the only way to keep the NPC alive is to either open the console menu and clear his bounty manually, or continue bribing him for a steady supply of gold, so long as you still have the gold to give him (NOTE: An unofficial mod entitled the Unofficial Oblivion Patch fixes this).


If you have stored weapons or armor in the Arch-Mage's Quarters, they may completely disappear.

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