Classes of Felonies

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 What Is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

Although misdemeanors and felonies are both classifications of crimes, they are different and carry different possible punishments. Misdemeanors are lesser crimes that typically carry sentences of fines or short jail sentences of a year or less. Felonies are more serious crimes with punishments that may range from hefty fines and numerous years in prison.

There are two main categories of criminal offenses: crimes against persons and crimes against property. A crime against property is a crime that is directed at an individual’s home or personal property.

A crime against a person involves bodily harm or injury to another individual. Common examples of felony crimes against property may include, but are not limited to:

  • Burglary: Burglary is the unauthorized breaking and entering into an individual’s home or other structure, with the intent to commit a felony crime inside, such as rape;
  • Arson: Arson is committed when an individual maliciously burns or chars property, for example, a home. An individual can commit arson to the property of another individual or to their own property;
  • Embezzlement: Embezzlement is the fraudulent conversion, or stealing, of an individual’s personal property by an individual who is in lawful possession of the property;
    • It generally occurs when an individual who has been entrusted with another individual’s property takes that property for their own use;
  • Larceny: Larceny occurs when an individual unlawfully takes another individual’s property;
    • It is important to note that the defendant must have intended to permanently deprive the other individual of their property in order for the crime to be considered larceny;
    • In certain states, larceny is called theft;
    • If the value of what is stolen is significant, a defendant may be convicted of felony larceny;
  • Robbery: Robbery involves taking another individual’s property by using force or the threat of force;
    • More simply put, robbery consists of larceny by force; and
  • False pretenses: False pretenses involves obtaining the title to another individual’s personal property when a defendant makes an intentionally false statement that is intended to defraud the other individual.

Examples of felony crimes against the persons include, but may not be limited to:

  • False imprisonment: False imprisonment is the intentional limitation or restriction of the movement of another individual without their consent. It is classified as a felony crime if the individual who was falsely imprisoned is a child or if force was used to commit the false imprisonment;
  • Kidnapping: Kidnapping involves carrying away, detention, or confinement of another individual against their will;
    • Kidnapping is different from false imprisonment in that kidnapping involves the movement of another individual, while false imprisonment involves confining another individual;
  • Murder: Murder is the intentional killing of another individual;
  • Manslaughter: Manslaughter is the killing of another individual without the intent to kill the individual; and
  • Felony murder: Felony murder is a murder that occurs when a defendant is committing an inherently dangerous felony;
    • Inherently dangerous felonies include:
      • Rape;
      • Robbery;
      • Burglary;
      • Arson;
      • Kidnapping.

There are many criminal offenses that may be classified as a misdemeanor or as a felony. With crimes against property, the more severe the property destruction or, the higher the value of the property that was stolen, the more likely the crime will be classified as a felony.

With crimes against persons, the more serious the harm the victim suffers, the more likely the crime will be charged as a felony. Examples of factors that may increase the likelihood of a crime being charged as a felony:

  • The use of force;
  • The use of a weapon;
  • Committing the crime against:
    • a child;
    • an elderly individual;
    • a member of law enforcement.

What Are the Classes of Felonies?

Every state has separate felony categories, or classes, according to the severity of the crime and the possible punishments. The classes may be labeled differently in each jurisdiction.

In some states, such as Alabama and Alaska, felonies are classified by alphabet, for example:

There are other states, such as Arizona and Colorado, felonies are classified by numbers, such as:

  • Class 1 felony;
  • Class 2 felony;
  • Class 3 felony.

There are certain jurisdictions that do not have classifications. Some jurisdictions may follow hybrid class or level systems. At the federal level, there are approximately 43 levels of felony crimes.

Is a Class A Felony Serious?

A Class A felony, which is also considered a Level 1 felony, is a classification that is reserved for the most serious of crimes, such as murder or involuntary servitude of a child. For example, if an individual is convicted of a Class A felony, they may be sentenced to life in prison.

What crimes are classified as Class A felonies, however, will depend on the laws of each state.

What Is a Class B Felony?

Class B felonies are very serious crimes but not as serious as Class A felonies. Therefore, the sentence for a Class B felony is typically not as severe as the sentence for a Class A felony conviction.

It is important to note that the amount of time a convicted defendant may receive in prison will depend on whether there are sentencing enhancements. For example, a defendant may be sentenced to decades in prison beyond their original possible sentence if they:

  • Have any prior convictions;
  • Used a deadly weapon;
  • Committed a gang crime;
  • Committed a hate crime.

What Are Other Felony Classifications?

Felony classifications are considered less serious with each alphabet letter. A Class C felony may include crimes such as involuntary manslaughter or selling or purchasing a child.

Involuntary manslaughter is a homicide that the defendant did not intend to commit, which occurs during the commission of a crime or due to criminal negligence. The prison sentence for Class C felonies may range from five to ten years.

There may also be Class D and Class E felony classifications in some jurisdictions.

What Are the Penalties for Felony Crimes?

Typically, an individual who is convicted of a felony offense faces prison time of over one year in addition to considerable penalties and fines. A defendant may also be required to pay restitution to the victim.

Restitution involves paying a victim for losses that were caused by the defendant’s felony. Under certain circumstances, a defendant may also be sued in a civil court by a victim.

A victim may be able to recover monetary damages for their:

  • Physical and mental injuries;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Medical expenses.

It is important to note that there may be certain types of felonies that carry additional penalties. An individual who commits a felony sex offense, such as rape or child pornography possession, may also be required to register as a sex offender.

In many states, individuals who are convicted of a felony also forfeit their right to vote. Many states also have laws that prohibit released felons from engaging in certain activities that would otherwise be lawful, such as possessing a firearm or having a professional license.

Do I Need to Contact a Criminal Attorney About a Felony?

If you are facing any type of felony charge, you should consult with a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. A felony is a very serious charge that may result in lengthy prison sentences, hefty fines, and possibly other consequences such as being unable to take certain jobs or possess firearms.

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