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The Basics of Felonies

According to criminal law, there are two main categories of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are more serious crimes, and a felony sentence usually entails a minimum of a year in prison.

If you or someone you know has been accused of committing a felony, it is important to try to develop an understanding of felony law. You will also want to contact a criminal defense attorney who has experience representing defendants accused of committing felonies.

What is Felony Law?

For the most part, state legislatures and Congress develop criminal laws and their respective punishments. Most crimes fall under the jurisdiction of state officials, though some crimes, such as those against federal property or a federal employee, will fall under federal criminal law.

Felonies are crimes that the state or federal government considers to be the most serious. They can be crimes against people, such as murder, or crimes against property, such as arson.

Felonies are often subdivided by seriousness. These subdivisions are sometimes referred to as classes or degrees. For example, first-degree murder would be considered more serious than second-degree murder, just as a class A felony would be considered more serious than a class B felony.

Because felony law varies from state to state, each jurisdiction may define a particular felony differently. Furthermore, the punishments assigned to each felony may be different for each state. For example, a felony assault in one state may entail a prison sentence and a fine, while a felony assault in another state may entail only a prison sentence.

Felonies Against People

The following are examples of felonies committed against people. The names of these crimes may vary from state to state.

  • Assault: Also referred to as battery, this crime is when you attempt to or succeed in causing someone serious bodily injury.
  • Kidnapping: This is when someone either takes and moves another individual against his or her will or when a person restrains another individual against his or her will.
  • Murder: Also known as homicide, this is when someone kills another individual. As mentioned, there are different classifications of murder, such as first-degree murder.
  • Rape: This is non-consensual sex with another individual.
  • Robbery: This usually occurs when someone uses force, possibly threatening or causing bodily injury, to take money or property from another individual.

Felonies Against Property

The following are examples of felonies committed against property. The names of these crimes may also vary from state to state.

  • Arson: This is when someone intentionally sets a fire to a building or, in some states, to an area outdoors, such as in the case of a wildfire.
  • Burglary: This is when someone unlawfully enters a building with the intent to commit another crime, such as arson.
  • Theft: This is the non-consensual seizure of another persons property. Theft is usually only classified as a felony when the monetary value of the property stolen reaches a certain threshold.

Felony Sentences

Different states will create different degrees of punishment for felonies. In general, however, felonies are punishable by more than a year in prison. Some felonies are punishable by a hefty fine, while others are punishable by both a prison sentence and a fine.

If you have further questions about felonies, felony law, or a particular felony charge, you should schedule a meeting with a criminal defense lawyer.