Elder Scrolls
Elder Scrolls
For other uses, see Crime.
"Stop right there, criminal scum!"
City Guard[src]

A crime is an unlawful act which a guard can reprimand the Hero for committing. Upon being caught for a crime, one will be 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 the cursor over the object. If it becomes a red hand Red-hand.png, it is considered unlawful to enter the door or touch the item.

List of crimes[]

From least to most serious with their bounty value.

  • Attacking a Sheep: 5 Gold
  • Trespassing: 5 Gold
  • Theft: Half of the item's value (always at least 1 Gold)
  • Pickpocketing :25 Gold
  • Assault: 40 Gold
  • Escaping from jail: 50 Gold
  • Stealing a Horse: 250 Gold
  • Wearing the Gray Cowl of Nocturnal: 500 Gold
  • Murder: 1000 Gold

Understanding crimes and bounties[]

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 result in a bounty. There must be a guard nearby to witness the crime before the Hero 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 a bounty to the Hero. Guards within about 140 feet of a witness will respond to an alarm.

A guard can either see a crime first-hand, or they can be notified 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 that can be obtained after completing side quests will rarely raise an alarm against the Hero. If one commits a crime out of both sight and hearing range of any guards, or if there is no alarm raised, the Hero will not receive a bounty. The only way to detect that a crime has been committed is by looking at one's journal.


Any guard who witnesses a crime in progress can place a bounty upon the Hero. 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 the 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), the crime has already been reported across the province.

If the Hero has a bounty, any guard they will encounter will know of it. If a hostile guard is chasing the Hero, any other guards encountered will become hostile as well. Outrunning all pursuers will no longer trigger an automatic arrest around new guards. However, if any guards are spoken to, they will be aware of the crime and ask for the bounty to be paid.

It should be noted that any witnesses of a crime may lower their disposition towards the Hero, even if one is not caught by a guard. Generally speaking, if one commits a crime against someone whom the witnesses have a high disposition towards, their disposition towards the Hero 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. A victim's disposition will lower by twice as much as any other witness.

Theft and pickpocketing[]

Both theft and pickpocketing involve taking items that do not belong to the Hero. Theft occurs when the Hero takes 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 NPCs inventory, and is punishable at a fixed amount. Even attempting to pickpocket someone is a crime, if they detect the Hero. In both cases, if one is sneaking when trying to take the item (which is always the case with pickpocketing), the weight and size of the object determines how likely it is to be detected. As a special case, pickpocketed gold, even though it weighs nothing, is very likely to result in being detected when taken. Each item taken is another occurrence of a crime; for pickpocketing, each item taken causes another chance to be detected by the victim.

Stolen items are permanently marked as such in one's inventory, and most merchants will not 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 one's fenced items total for the Thieves Guild quests.

Note that picking open a locked chest or container, by itself, is not a crime. An object will need to be removed from the container to count as a theft. It should also be noted that, if a guard's disposition is over 91, they will not arrest the Hero for pickpocketing/theft.

Assault and murder[]

Not all attacks constitute an assault. If the NPC becomes hostile towards the Hero and attempts to attack them, there is no crime in attacking them in response. It is not a crime to attack a non-NPC creature (except owned farm animals), and certain NPC characters are considered "evil" enough that it is not a crime to attack them, regardless of their actions against the Hero.

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 the Hero to a guard immediately. If one attacks an ally in direct sight of a guard, this will result in a bounty. In some cases, particularly when the guards are following the Hero for a quest, they will ignore the first occurrence of a crime, even if they witness it. Allies will give three warnings to the Hero if they hit them, before turning hostile and calling for guards.

If any non-hostile NPC is killed, it is considered murder. Again, this includes potentially hostile NPCs, if they are managed to have been killed before they become hostile. As an example, killing Mythic Dawn sleeper agents who have not yet become hostile is murder. This can cause problems during battles with multiple allies and guards present. If an ally is accidentally killed with a single attack and a guard is present, all guards immediately become hostile. Even if all witnessing guards are killed, any other guard detects the Hero will attempt an arrest. Unlike assaults, there is never any leeway granted for accidentally murdering an ally. Lastly, one's first murder, detected or not, will always be detected by the Dark Brotherhood, and will trigger a visit the next time the Hero sleeps.

There is a glitch in the game that makes murder counter-intuitive. To commit murder, one must be directly responsible dealing the last point of health damage. For example, a spell cast from the Hero that does damage over time will result in murder if the NPC is killed from it. However, if one poisons or enchants 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 will only result in a 40 Gold assault bounty. The same thing applies if one feeds an NPC a Poisoned Apple or pushes them off of a cliff or into a pit of lava.

However, this glitch has some downsides. If one's ally is in battle and is killed by friendly fire from the Hero, the Hero will be guilty of murder. If a summoned creature kills or assaults an NPC, the Hero will still be guilty of the crime, even though they were not directly responsible for it.


For other uses, see Trespassing.

If a guard sees the Hero trespassing, they will immediately receive the trespass bounty. Other NPCs, however, will usually be more lenient. Trespassing around "off-duty" guards may also not immediately trigger a bounty, although this is a rare occurrence. Non-guard NPCs will warn the Hero a number of times to leave the area before alarming the guards, and will follow them until they leave. If one continues to trespass in their line of sight, the NPC will become increasingly hostile. After a short period of time, the NPC will determine that the Hero is intentionally trespassing, and will become hostile. They will call for guards and will begin to attack. If no guards are nearby, the Hero can flee the area without receiving a bounty. Even if the victim follows and attacks the Hero in a public area, one will still not receive a bounty.

It should be noted that 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. A crime will be committed as soon as one enters through the door after unlocking it. A guard which sees the Hero go through the door will attempt an arrest. 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 the law is being broken.


Whenever one resists arrest or avoids to pay the penalty for crime, guards around Cyrodiil will confront or attack the Hero. Fast traveling to another city will not stop this from occurring.

Dealing with the bounty[]

Paying the bounty[]

Paying the bounty will remove the amount of gold asked for, as well as all stolen items that are non-quest related.


While in jail, the Hero will be able to hide one lockpick. All previous attire will be replaced by a shirt, pants, and shoes. If the Hero successfully escapes from prison, they will have to sneak past or kill the guards in the jail and city, as well as retrieve their items from the Evidence Chest in the prison.

Note that the locks on the cell door are always "hard" or "very hard," meaning that, if one has an Open Hard Lock spell, the door can be unlocked without using the lockpick.

Otherwise, the Hero can sleep in the bed in their cell and serve their time in jail. Every 100 Gold in the bounty equates to one day in prison. For each day spent in prison, one of the Hero's skills will degrade. The skills that are affected are chosen randomly; one could lose a single point from several skills, several points from a single skill, or a combination of the two. There is also a chance that Sneak or Security skills may be chosen, and will raise instead. You cannot lose or gain more than 10 skill points in a single jail sentence.

There are numerous companion bugs which may bring NPCs that were once part of one's party to the jail entrance; the first the Hero is likely to encounter are the Cheydinhal Fighters Guild NPCs from quest "The Desolate Mine."

Resisting arrest[]

Upon choosing to resist arrest, the guard being spoken to, as well as any other guards in the vicinity, will attack immediately. The Hero may either kill all of the guards in the vicinity, yield to one of them (this is usually only possible with the local captain), or run and find a Doyen in the Thieves Guild to pay off the bounty. This can be difficult, as fast traveling is disabled while being pursued by guards.

If the Hero is a member of a guild, another method is to head to that faction's guildhouse, which will allow the other members to attack the guards. Afterwards, the guards will not attack the Hero, but will attempt to make the Hero pay the fine once spoken to. If the Hero engages any guard in conversation, they will once again give the options of paying the fine, going to jail, or resisting arrest.

Another method, if the Hero is a member of the Arcane University and has a bounty of less than 1000 Gold, is to create a charming spell, then use it on a guard. Immediately after casting it, talk to the guard. He will tell the Hero that, because they are friends, he will take care of the bounty. However, this is also possible if the Hero has a very high Fame rating (80–100).

Thieves Guild[]

If the Hero is a member of the Thieves Guild, they can pay half of the bounty to a Thieves Guild Doyen and clear the fine. This is the only way for the Hero to keep any stolen items without having to resist arrest or ignore the guards.

NPCs and crimes[]

NPCs follow most of the same rules to crimes, but with one notable exception: they cannot be jailed unless a specific script tells the guard to take them to jail (i.e. Llathasa's Bust in the Thieves Guild quest "The Elven Maiden"). They must either pay their fine or resist arrest. Like the Hero, an NPC can only pay their fine if they have the necessary gold in their inventory. If they cannot pay the fine, they must resist arrest, which usually results in their death. The Hero can choose to give the NPC the necessary gold by bribing them in the persuasion minigame. However, there is a scripting glitch that may prevent an NPC's bounty from being reset to zero automatically. At this point, the only way to keep the NPC alive is to either clear their bounty manually using console commands, or continue bribing them with a supply of gold.