A felony is a serious offense that involves a high degree of culpability and damage. The damages resulting from felonies can be physical, emotional, financial, or property-related. Felonies are divided into multiple different categories, including:

  • Violent vs. non-violent crimes
  • White collar crimes
  • Blue collar crimes
  • Property crimes
  • Sex crimes
  • Drug offenses

A violent felony involves the use of or threat of force and often results in physical injury to the complainant, such as mayhem or second degree murder. A non-violent felony involves non-physical damage to the complainant, such as arson or a loss of money or property through a scam such as cheating at gambling. In addition, non-violent felonies are often victimless crimes, such as drug possession, solicitation, or counterfitting.

Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

Felony offenses are more heinous than misdemeanors. This is partly because a felony offense has a higher level of mens rea, or required state of intent, than a misdemeanor. In addition, the harm caused to the complainant or society is greater. For instance, grand theft is a felony that often involves the theft of property valued at over $1000, while theft is a misdemeanor if it involves the theft of property valued under $1000. Felonies are punishable by maximum terms of incarceration of 1 year or more. These sentences are served at federal or state prisons, which provide higher security and greater restrictions on inmates than county jails.

Misdemeanors are commonly referred to as “petty crimes.” Many of these offenses are victimless crimes, such a solicitation of a prostitute, contempt, defacing property, and disorderly conduct. Those misdemeanors that involve complainants are associated with more minor injuries or damages. Misdemeanors face maximum sentences of less than 1 year. These sentences are served in county jails, which house less violent offenders and contain fairly lax security.

What Are Common Felony Charges?

Felonies and their penalties vary by jurisdiction. However, states usually classify the following as felonies:

  • Homicide
  • Assault, battery, assault with intent to kill, assault with significant bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, assault on a police officer
  • Theft such as embezzlement, grand theft, larceny, and receiving stolen property
  • Fraud
  • Sexual battery and rape
  • Threats
  • Possession of a firearm or prohibited weapon
  • Kidnapping and smuggling of persons
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Manufacturing counterfeit items such as gambling chips
  • Destruction of Property
  • Traffic offenses such as driving under the influence (DUI)

What Are Common Defenses for Felonies?

The available defenses for each felony will vary based on the unique circumstances surrounding each case, as well as the type of felony. Common defenses to felony charges include:

  • Self-defense
  • Adequate provocation
  • Fabrication
  • Mistake or accident
  • Misidentification
  • Violation of constitutional rights
  • Consent or permission
  • Lack of intent
  • Lack of evidence
  • Insanity or diminished mental capacity

Do I Need a Lawyer?

A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer is truly necessary if you are facing felony charges. Felony cases can be extremely complex, involve confusing law, and carry harsh penalties. A criminal defense lawyer can explain the charges, investigate the case, and advise you on how to proceed.