Elder Scrolls V Skyrim: Crime, Fees & Punishments

I love playing Skyrim and sometimes there’s something that you just really want or need in the game… but can’t really afford it. And other times completing crimes can benefit you by taking you to places you need to go especially if you’re trying a speed run tactic. And don’t want to pay or can’t afford the fare for transportation. So what are the bounties for the various crimes in Skyrim?

“You have committed crimes against Skyrim and her people. What say you in your defense?”

— Hold Guard

Fines for Crimes

These are just a base levels the crimes are in Skyrim. Though they might be higher or lower depending on the crime and the severity of said crime. If there are no witnesses of the crime, there is no bounty placed on the Dragonborn. But if bounty is acquired, killing all witnesses before they can report it will effectively remove the bounty. Though good luck in stopping that from happening especially if one of the witnesses was a guard.

  • Theft – Half of the stolen item’s value
  • Trespassing – 5 gold
  • Disturbing the Jarl’s Peace – 10 gold
  • Pickpocketing – 25 gold
  • Assault – 40 gold
    • Hand-to-hand brawls do not count
    • Feeding on people as a vampire or with Namira’s Ring count as Assault
  • Horse Theft (this applies every time you mount the horse) – 50 gold
  • Escaping Jail – 100 gold
  • Forging a Business Ledger – 100 gold
  • Forging the Dragonsreach Prison Registry Ledger – 250 gold
  • Murder (self-defense does not count unless the attacker is a guard) – 1,000 gold
  • Transforming into a Werewolf or Vampire Lord (Includes reverting back into your natural form if you weren’t seen transforming earlier) – 1,000 Gold


You can pay the gold, if so the guard will leave and the money will be automatically removed from your inventory. However, if you do not have enough gold then the guard will try to arrest you. Either you can resist or allow the arrest to happen. If you resist arrest then all guards in the immediate area including some bystanders and cities draw weapons to try to slay the criminal. But this only happens upon the criminal’s escape or death do they relent.

During combat, the criminal can choose to make the guard “yield” by initiating dialogue. Which will bring you back to the choice menu, where you get two options:

  1. Pay the bounty (which will be greater due to the added assault)
  2. Serve Jail Time

If you choose the option to serve jail time, you will stripped of all items, weapons, and armor then placed in a cell. To wait out the duration of the sentence, just sleep in the bed. Once you are released all items will be returned. You can choose to escape but items must be manually be obtained from an evidence locker somewhere in the prison. If caught, you will receive the bounty for escaping jail.

Sometimes if you steal a low value object then some lower class may send Hired Thugs after you. For low level characters, they might be rather difficult opponents. If the bounty is high end, the Jarls employ Bounty Collectors to chase down criminals and attack them. They can appear in any hold or location.

Special Circumstances

If you are a Thane of a hold, some small bounties may be overlooked by simply mentioned if you are a Thane. But bounties exceeding 1,000 gold cannot be forgiven using this method. And can only be done once per hold though.

In Markarth, instead of going to a jail criminals are sent to the Cidhna Mine to pay off bounties. The sentence is served by mining ore or escaping. Note there is a quest called “No One Escapes Cidhna Mine” that requires you become imprisoned in the mine at some part.

The Dragonborn does have the option to join the Thieves Guild in Riften. After completing the special jobs criminals can gain the option to bride guards and allow them to keep stolen items. Bribery, however, can also be gained as a perk in the Speech skill tree. Which would allow you to persuade the guards out of arresting or fining you, but does not remove the bounty. The guard who attempted to gather it, would simply ignore it. Other guards may still respond to the bounty.

In the mage route, there is a spell available at the illusion school of Magicka called Pacify that calms hostile targets. Coupled with the “Kindred Mage” perk from the same skill tree, the spell has the potential to calm guards. So when used on guards, it causes them to forget about the arrest/bounty and walk away. So you can either run or fast travel to a safer location.

During the Civil War, whenever a hold is taken by the Imperial Legion or Stormcloaks, a criminal’s bounty is reset. So that is an option as well.

Storing stolen items in chests or containers or simply dropping may remove the bounty altogether. This is especially useful when items are accidentally picked up in shops or guild headquarters. Which is something I do quite often by mistake. The owner of the item that witnesses the theft may simply take the item you picked up and the bounty may not be applied.


There is an achievement that you can get in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim called “Master Criminal.” To receive you need to have a bounty of 1,000 gold in all nine holds.


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