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There are many opportunities to benefit from illicit acts in Skyrim. If you are caught doing something illegal, however, you face potential consequences, usually at the hands of guards in the hold where you committed the crime.


Red text in inventories indicates that taking the item will be stealing. Stolen items will be confiscated from you if you are arrested and jailed, and can be sold only to fences. Red on-screen text attending an action option indicates that performing that action would be a crime.

The following are crimes:

  • Assault. Starting a fight with a non-hostile NPC (except a brawl).
  • Disturbing the jarl's peace (results from dropping a weapon in sight of a guard and refusing to pay a 50 gold bribe).
  • Eating a corpse using the Ring of Namira (considered an assault).
  • Feeding on someone as a vampire (considered an assault).
  • Killing domestic animals.
  • Lockpicking.
  • Murder (if you are attacked first, killing your attacker is not considered murder, unless the attacker is a guard and you are resisting arrest).
  • Pickpocketing (although looking at someone's inventory without taking anything is not a crime).
  • Stealing items or horses.
  • Transforming into a werewolf or Vampire LordDG form, or transforming back into your natural form (there will not be a second bounty if you are witnessed transforming both to your beast/vampire lord form and back).
  • Trespassing.

If it is witnessed, committing a crime can result in a number of potential consequences. You will generally receive a bounty. More serious crimes result in larger bounties; for example, the bounty for assault is only 40, while that for murder is 1000. Bounties are set and enforced separately in each hold, so the guards in a given hold will not be concerned with bounties you incurred elsewhere.

Stealthily Committing Crimes

Remaining undetected while committing a crime will allow you to escape punishment. If you are detected, you can still wipe out a bounty if you kill all the witnesses to the crime before they are able to report you. In that case, a message will appear telling you your bounty has been removed. Most living creatures can witness crimes, including horses, farm animals, and hostile bandits.

When stealing something from inside a home, knowing the residents' schedules can be valuable. Most NPCs leave the home during the day for work from 8am to 8pm, perhaps visit a local tavern, and then go to sleep around midnight. Elders and children often wander around during the day, but from 8pm to midnight they sit at home and do nothing.

Generally, therefore, the best time for burglary is from midnight to 7-8am when everyone is asleep. Another good time is middle of the day when most people are either working or wandering around, but be wary of elders or children who may stay at home.

Most NPC pages contain detailed information on their schedules, which can be helpful in planning a burglary or theft.

If you ask a follower to commit a witnessed crime, you will be held responsible and will receive a bounty. Killing guards without receiving a bounty is possible if it is an undetected one-hit kill or with poison, or if you kill all witnesses. Killing all witnesses will be hard in this case, as more guards will usually arrive quickly.

Consequences of Committing Crimes


See below for the bounty amounts associated with types of crime.

Any bounties you have are listed by hold on the General Stats page, Crime tab, of your journal, above the Total Lifetime Bounty. If no bounty is listed for any holds, then you do not currently have a bounty.

If your side gains a hold controlled by the opposing faction during the Civil War quests, any bounty you have in that hold will be immediately cleared.

Crime Gold

Dropping a weapon in a town may prompt a guard to warn you against doing so, choosing the dialogue options"Yes,but I don't care" and "I'm not paying your bribe" will cause the notification "10 Crime Gold Added" to appear to the top left of the screen. Crime gold does not seem to have an effect upon any NPC interactions with you but it does add the amount of crime gold to your holds bounty

Hired Thugs

If you steal or murder, rather than receiving a bounty, you may be targeted by Hired Thugs sent by the victim of the theft or a relative of the deceased. Even if you were not seen, or there were no witnesses, you may still be targeted.

Stolen Items

Stolen items in your inventory will be marked with the word 'Stolen', even if you were able to steal the item without being detected. As long as this tag is present, the item is considered stolen. Any stolen items in your possession will be confiscated and retained by the guards if you are arrested. All items that are confiscated as a result of your arrest or jail time will be stored in an evidence chest in the jail of the hold. The chest is locked with an expert or master lock and is usually in the same room as the chest with your gear (when jailed). Reclaiming confiscated items will not remove the "stolen" status on them.

Furthermore, standard merchants will not buy stolen items. However, joining the Thieves Guild provides access to fences who are willing to buy such merchandise. In addition, unlocking the Speech skill's Fence perk allows stolen goods to be sold to any merchant that you have invested in. The stolen flag can be cleared from items by selling the item to a fence and then buying it back. If you have the Merchant perk from the Speech perk tree reverse-pickpocketing the item onto a merchant and then buying it back also clears the flag.

Anything completely consumed in crafting will not transfer its stolen flag to the new item; this includes stolen ingredients used in Alchemy to create potions, stolen food and stolen ingredients used in cooking and bakingHF, soul gems used in Enchanting, stolen hides and pelts used in tanning, stolen ore and dwarven materials used at smelters, leather, ingots, gems, or other materials used to make or improve weapons, armor, rings, amulets, and building materialsHF through Smithing, as well as anything used at a carpenter's workbenchHF. However, improving a stolen weapon or piece of armor through Smithing will not clear its stolen flag, nor will enchanting a stolen item. Stolen items may be used for quests where you are required to provide a particular item to a person; if the quest giver wants a mammoth tusk or nirnroot, a stolen tusk or nirnroot will work just as well as a non-stolen item. Also, stolen crops may be sold to farmers (assuming they are a type of crop that that particular farm grows), stolen ore may be sold to mine owners (if it's the right kind of ore) and stolen firewood may be sold to mill owners, all for exactly the same amount as they would pay for honestly-obtained merchandise.

Pickpocketing multiple items at once, such as pickpocketing 12 arrows from a guard, will result in only one arrow actually being considered stolen. The entire item stack will say that the arrows are stolen, but dropping your arrow stack will separate the arrows into the large stack of legal arrows (including the 11 not-marked-stolen arrows from the guard) 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, though the cause of this occurrence is unknown. If you are arrested while carrying gold that is marked as stolen, the amount of gold that is considered "stolen" will be confiscated. Gold that is marked as stolen can be used at merchants (even ones which are not fences) normally, used as bribe money, and used to buy and improve property in holds from the hold's steward.

Getting Arrested

If you have a bounty, guards from the hold in which the bounty applies will attempt to arrest you. You can ask the guards to ignore a small crime (100 bounty or under), by using persuasion. However, you will have to ask every guard to overlook the crime to stop them from confronting you. If you run from the guards they will chase you.

If you cancel the dialogue when guards attempt to arrest you, they will attack you without allowing you to pay your fine, no matter how minor. If this happens, attempt to yield by sheathing your spells or weapons (or draw, then sheathe them if they are not already drawn); or leave, allow a few days of in-game time to pass, and return. However, if you have a follower with you, this (or even opening the dialogue options) may be impossible as your follower will very likely attack the guard no matter what you do; if you are traveling to a hold where you have a bounty you might want to dismiss your follower or have them wait elsewhere.

When you are arrested by a guard you have several options: If you are a thane, you can so declare; pay the bounty; bribe or persuade the guard; go to jail; or resist arrest.

Paying Bounty

If you choose to pay off your bounty, you will be immediately transported outside the nearest town jail, and all stolen items in your possession will be seized and put into the jail's evidence chest. If you are a Thieves Guild member and have done a reputation quest, you can pay a much lower fine and keep your stolen items in the relevant hold.

Bounty amounts:

Crime Bounty
Theft Half the stolen item's value
Trespassing 5 gold
Disturbing the jarl's peace 10 gold
Pickpocketing 25 gold
Assault 40 gold
Horse theft 50 gold each time the horse is mounted
Escaping jail 100 gold
Forging a business ledger 100 gold
Forging the prison registry in Dragonsreach 250 Gold
Murder 1000 gold
Transforming into a werewolf or a
Vampire Lord or back to your natural
form if you were not seen transforming earlier
1000 gold
  • Because the value is rounded down, stealing a 1 gold item yields a 0 gold bounty that still has to be 'paid' by going through the dialogue with a guard. Paying the 0 bounty will still cause the guard to seize all your stolen items.
  • Feeding on people as a vampire or by using the Ring of Namira constitutes an assault.

Going to Jail

If you cannot pay your bounty, you will be incarcerated in the nearest jail. You are able to keep one lockpick, which you can use to try to escape. In some cells, there are additional hidden lockpicks or food items.

Escaping Jail

If you do escape, your bounty will remain. You may find particular methods to escape from certain cells; for example, you may be able to break through a weak, crumbling wall. You may be able to pickpocket the jail key from a passing guard.

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 angered, they will unlock your cell door and attack you. In this case, you must not only survive the fight, but you may also find it difficult or impossible to access and recover your confiscated items.

If taken to Dragonsreach Dungeon in Whiterun, there is a novice-locked grating that leads to an unguarded sewer. There is a small, barred window high up on a wall in a room on the lower level of the sewer that allows you to easily access the belongings chest without getting caught. A ladder leads to the guard barracks, which normally contains only two guards inside by which you can easily sneak past. Once outside, you can fast travel to another hold (or Helgen, if you've not yet discovered another hold). Since its jail is the easiest from which to escape, Whiterun hold may the best in which to commit a crime toward the ultimate goal of winning the Wanted (escape from jail) achievement.

The Dremora ButlerDB can be used to make jail escapes much easier. He can be made to carry extra lockpicks and fighting gear that can be accessed even when in jail.

Serving Your Sentence

To serve your sentence, sleep in a cell bed. You'll awaken when your time has been served. You will lose progress towards one or more skill level advancements; the longer your sentence, the more skills so affected. The maximum sentence is seven days; if you serve seven days, your skill advancement will be cleared for every skill. You will serve the maximum sentence for any bounty 700 or higher.

Jail in The Reach

If you go to jail in The Reach, then you will be taken to Cidhna Mine. If you are arrested because of completing The Forsworn Conspiracy then the quest No One Escapes Cidhna Mine will start, and you must complete that quest to escape Cidhna Mine. Otherwise, there is no possibility of escape, and no cell bed for you to sleep in. In order to serve your time, pick up a pickaxe, and activate one of the silver ore veins in the mine as if you were going to mine it. You will be released into Markarth.

Resisting Arrest

Resisting arrest will cause all guards in the area to attack you. If you change your mind, yielding to a guard by sheathing your weapon or spells may prompt them to stop attacking and to arrest you again, presenting the same options. Sometimes, you cannot yield, and the guards will simply continue to attack. A sufficiently powerful Calm spell will stop the guards from attacking, though speaking to them again will result in another arrest attempt. Another way to try to stop such an attack is to punch an innocent person, keep your fists raised and then try to yield again. Finally, PC users can use the console command player.scaonactor to immediately end all combat involving the player.

Persuading a Guard

Occasionally another option will appear if you have a low bounty. You can attempt to persuade the guard that you are not worth the effort of dealing with, and should then be allowed to go free. Success partially depends on your Speech skill level. If successful, you will gain Speech experience points (XP), but will not clear your bounty.

If your speech is 75 or higher, you'll always have this option if the guard has not been persuaded already. To attempt to persuade the same guard again, wait 2 days and the option will be available again. You can try to find a different guard to persuade by resisting and then surrendering near another one.

Declaring Thaneship

If you are the thane of a hold, you can declare this to the guard. This will immediately clear a bounty of less than 3000, but can only be done once per hold (twice if the hold is captured during the civil war and you are made a thane by the new jarl).

Bribing a Guard

Thieves Guild members have the option to bribe the guard. The amount of gold required to bribe a guard is usually much larger than the bounty for small crimes, but less than that for murder. Successful bribing will increase Speech skill XP, immediately clear your bounty, and avoid having items confiscated. The Bribery Speech perk also grants you this option. Bribing will clear only the bounty incurred for the recently witnessed crime.

You can also bribe a guard to look the other way, which will not clear your bounty. The amount for the bribe to look the other way does not seem to be calculated according to your bounty, however, and when you have a small bounty it is often more than your bounty.

The Bounty Collector

If your bounty is above 1000 gold in any hold, you may be confronted by a bounty collector. Unlike guards, he may confront you in a hold that is different from the one in which you have the bounty. When you encounter him, he will run up to you and demand you pay him an amount of gold equal to your bounty in that hold, plus 20% for his fee. If you pay, your bounty will be cleared in that hold, and you can keep any stolen items in your possession. If you pickpocket or kill the collector after paying him, he won't have that money in his inventory. Also, use his services at your own risk as the bounty may still be present in the hold that he collects the bounty for, even after paying him.

Guard Dialogue

Skyrim Guards

Caught by a guard right after the crime:
"By order of the Jarl, stop right there!"
"You have committed crimes against Skyrim and her people. What say you in your defense?"

  • I'm with the Guild. Is this enough to clear my bounty? (Only available after you joined the Thieves Guild, and completed a quest for the capital of the hold that you are currently in)
"I can make all your problems with the guards go away. But it'll cost you. What do you say?"
  • Yes, clear my bounty.
"Done. Now move along, before you get me in trouble."
  • Too rich for my blood.
"Suit yourself, but you better decide what you want to do about this arrest. No one walks away for free."
  • How about I pay you some gold and you look the other way?
"Everything here appears to be in order. You can move along now."
"Since you put it that way, I think we can overlook your crime for now."
  • I'm the Jarl's Thane. I demand you let me go at once.
"Oh, forgive me, Thane. I didn't realize it was you. We'll look the other way this time, but even the Jarl's influence has its limits. Be more careful."
  • Any chance I could talk you into overlooking this? (Persuade)
"All right, but you just watch yourself. Next time, I might not be so lenient."
  • You caught me. I'll pay off my bounty.
"Good enough. I'll just confiscate any stolen goods you're carrying, then you're free to go."
"Smart man/woman. Now come along with us. We'll take any stolen goods, and you'll be free to go. After you pay the fine, of course."
  • I submit. Take me to jail.
"It's off to Cidhna Mine for you." (Markarth)
"A stretch in the Castle Dour Dungeon will straighten you right out." (Solitude)
"You're going to rot in the Dragonsreach Dungeon." (Whiterun)
"Ha, enjoy the Chill." (Winterhold)
"I guess you're smarter than you look." (General reply)
  • I'd rather die than go to prison!
Turn hostile.

Recognized by a guard with a low bounty:
"Wait... I know you."

  • You're making a mistake...
"There's no mistake. You're a wanted man/woman... and it's time to pay for your crimes."
  • I don't have time for this. Do you?
"You know what? You're not worth the hassle. Go... be some other guard's problem."
"Well, your bounty is low... All right, get out of my sight. But you're known to me now, scum. Remember that."

Redoran GuardsDB

Caught by a guard right after the crime:
"In House Redoran's name, I order you to stop!"
"You have committed crimes against the Dunmer people of Solstheim. What say you in your defense?"

  • I'm with the Guild. How about you look the other way? (Only available after you joined the Thieves Guild)
"Well, I suppose I could forget that I saw you this time."
  • Any chance I could talk you into overlooking this? (Persuade)
"Very well, you're free to go. Next time you might not be so lucky."
  • You caught me. I'll pay off my bounty.
"Good enough. I'll just remove any stolen goods on you, and then you're free to go."
"Wise choice. Now come along with us. After we confiscate any stolen goods, you'll be free to go. After you pay the fine, of course."
  • I submit. Take me to jail.
"Right then! Off to the Bulwark with you."
  • I'd rather die than go to prison!
Turn hostile.

Recognized by a guard with a low bounty:
"Stop right there... where have I seen you before?"

  • You're making a mistake...
"The only mistake here belongs to you. You're a wanted man/woman and there's no way I'm letting you walk away."
  • I don't have time for this. Do you?
"I suppose I can overlook it for now, but you better keep your hands clean or I'll come after you again... You got that?"


  • Unlike in Oblivion, you will not lose any past skill increases if jailed. You will only lose progress toward one or more skill level increases.
  • The Stallion's Potion involved in the quest Bothela's Discreet Delivery is marked as stolen while in your inventory, even though you obtained it legitimately.
  • If an item, such as a kettle or basket, is covering an NPC's head when you commit a crime in front of them, they will not report the crime.
  • Shouting in a city may result in a warning from a city guard, but will not increase your bounty unless the shout is an attack and hits a citizen.
  • You can store all your gear and gold in a nearby outdoor container such as a barrel before a guard approaches you and begins the dialogue that may lead to jail. In this case, your stuff—including any stolen items—will be there when you return, as long as the container does not respawn in the meantime.
  • Conquering a hold during the Civil War questline will remove any bounty you may have accumulated in that hold.


  • Sometimes, declaring thaneship will result in the guards sheathing their weapons, and then immediately resuming combat. Fleeing the hold and returning (with your weapon sheathed) will often fix the problem. ?
  • Stolen gold will sometimes be marked as such in your inventory, though not always. As with most stolen goods they are placed at the bottom of the pile and it can be hard to get rid of the tag from the rest of your gold. If arrested by guards, they will not confiscate any stolen gold. Merchants will take the stolen gold off you.
    • Putting the gold in a container and getting a follower to 'take all' items out of the container will clear the tag. Retrieve the gold from the follower to use it.
    • If you have a low enough amount, you can use it all to buy items off a merchant, then sell them items back to 'launder' the money and clear the tag.
  • If your bounty is between 101 and 1000 gold, inclusive, guards may repeatedly say "Wait... I know you" without ever offering the option to pay your bounty. This can block several quests.
    Mod Notes: The line "The only mistake was you showing your face" has an incorrect gender check which should be removed.
    • Attack a guard and you will be presented with the customary options.
  • Performing a murder in one hold may actually add to your bounty in another hold instead, if you are spotted by a person who normally belongs in that other hold. ?
  • Declaring your thaneship and then interrupting the guard or walking away while the guard is talking to you may cause the script that removes your bounty to fail, and the next time you are arrested you have lost the ability to declare your thaneship.
  • It can become impossible to clear your bounty in Markarth or submit to the guards and be sent to jail. When you agree to be sent to jail the dialogue just starts up again. This happens if you resist arrest at the Shrine of Talos.
  • Even if you commit a crime with no witnesses around, guards may still become aware of it and confront you. ?
    • Leaving the area and waiting for 24 hours may fix this.


Achievements related to crime are:

  • SR-achievement-Master Criminal.png {{{name}}} ({{{points}}} points)
    • You can track your progress towards the achievement using the bounties listed for each hold on the Crime page of your journal's General Stats; you have to have all nine bounties simultaneously.
  • [[File:SR-achievement-{{{name}}}.png|30px]] {{{name}}} ({{{points}}} points)
    • You can track your progress towards the achievement using the "Locks Picked" and "Pockets Picked" statistics on the Crime page of your journal's General Stats.
  • SR-achievement-Wanted.png {{{name}}} ({{{points}}} points)
  • The Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood also have several achievements.