Felony crimes are unlawful acts whose minimum punishment carries the possibility of fines and jail time. There are several different unlawful acts that are considered felony crimes and a number of ways in which these felony crimes are processed through the legal system. Felony crimes can either be tried in the federal or state court system depending on the nature of the crime and the location(s) in which the crime took place.
When felony crimes are committed against the United States government, take place in more than one state, or embody other special legal circumstances, felony crimes are tried by the federal judicial system. When felony crimes are committed against a state government or people, and the events of the felony crime occur in only one state, these felony crimes are generally processed through that state’s criminal justice system.
In 2000, State courts convicted almost 925,000 people of felony crimes. The Federal court system convicted almost 60,000 people of felony crimes. Of these individuals convicted of felony charges, 95 percent were convicted through guilty pleas, and the other five percent were found guilty by a trial conviction.
There are a number of different unlawful acts that are prosecuted as felony crimes. The most common types of felony crimes include drug possession and trafficking crimes, property crimes- including burglary, larceny, and fraud, weapons offenses, and violent offenses. Violent felony crimes can include murder, aggravated assault, rape, and other types of violent felony crimes. There are different degrees of felony crimes that a person can commit. The degree of felony crimes indicates their severity and the type of punishment the criminal might face after conviction.
White-collar crimes are often considered felony crimes. White-collar crime is defined as unlawful action that is perpetrated in a business or professional setting by a person who seeks personal financial gain at the expense of another. These types of felony crimes are generally non-violent in nature and can include: fraud, identity theft, money laundering, tax evasion, corruption, embezzlement, and a number of other felony crimes.
On average, approximately two-thirds of all persons convicted of felony crimes are sentenced to a period of confinement and the other one-third are sentenced to probation with no jail or prison time punishments. The average sentence for felony crimes is three years in the state and six years in the federal criminal justice system. There is also a probationary period during which specific limitations placed on what a person convicted of felony crimes is legally allowed to do.
Persons convicted of felony crimes may also receive a variety of other punishments as part of their sentence. Approximately one-quarter of all persons convicted of felony crimes are required to pay a punitive fine. Another fifteen percent are required to pay a restitution fine. About five percent are required to perform some sort of community service. Seven percent of these criminals, particularly those convicted of drug felony crimes must participate in treatment programs.