There are a number of factors which lead to varying degrees of criminal liability; almost all variations are based on the individual facts of the case. Two examples, Homicide and Burglary: Homicide is the killing of a human being by another human being. If it is unlawful, it becomes a crime. If it was premeditated, that is "in cold blood," it is murder; if it is committed in the heat of passion, it is manslaughter; if it results from gross negligence (playing with a gun, etc.) it is involuntary manslaughter. If one breaks into and enters a dwelling at night with the intent to commit a felony, one has committed common law burglary. If one simply breaks in, say to escape from danger, he may have committed a lesser crime, but not burglary. In every instance, the circumstances of the offense will lead to some variation. Was there self defense, or some other form of justification, etc. All these are factors that affect culpability.