Types of Felony

Felony Types

In the criminal justice system, felonies are the most serious type of offense, carrying heavier penalties and longer prison sentences than other types of crime.  Although there are many different types of felony offenses, they all have certain common characteristics and consequences. In this article, we will provide an overview of the various types of felonies, what constitutes a felony offense, and the potential punishments for committing a felony.

Felonies Against a Person

“Felonies Against a Person” typically refer to criminal offenses that involve physical harm or the threat of physical harm to another person. Violent felony crimes can include murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault, and armed or unarmed robbery. In 2020, government statistics indicate that over 175,000 people were convicted of violent types of felony crimes in both the state and federal systems. Violent types of felony convictions comprise only four percent of all federal convictions and four times as many in the state judicial system.


Assault is one of the most common types of felony against a person. This includes physical attacks on another individual with the intention of causing injury or harm. It also covers the threat of violence, as well as any attempt to use a deadly weapon. Depending on the severity of the attack, an assault can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, with harsher punishments reserved for more serious cases.

Rape and Sexual Assault

Rape and Sexual Assault are two very serious crimes that involve forced sexual contact with another person without their consent. Rape is generally understood to involve penetration of the victim’s body, while sexual assault usually involves any kind of unwanted sexual contact such as touching or groping. Both crimes constitute felonies and carry heavy sentences if convicted.

Promoting Prostitution

Promoting Prostitution is another form of felony that involves providing assistance in facilitating sex-for-hire services. In some states, this is known as “pimping” and carries serious consequences if found guilty.


Kidnapping is a form of abduction in which the offender takes away another person without their consent. It is often used in combination with other crimes such as extortion or robbery and carries sentences ranging from life imprisonment to death depending on the circumstances.

Hate Crimes

In addition to the general types of felonies, there are also specific categories of offenses that may be classified as felonies. For example, “hate crimes” are those which target individuals based on their race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. The maximum punishment for a hate crime is typically more severe than for other felonies. Similarly, terrorism offenses are considered felonies and can result in a much greater sentence.

Felonies Against a Property

There are a number of types of felony crimes that are classified as property offenses. These types of felony crimes include burglary, larceny (including motor vehicle theft), fraud, and forgery. Approximately 275,000 people were convicted of these types of felony crimes in both the federal and state justice systems in 2020 alone. Approximately two-thirds of all convicted property offenders are sentenced to serve jail or prison time. The average incarceration time for these types of crimes is 23 to 27 months.

In some cases, simply possessing an item that was taken unlawfully could also be considered a felony. Depending on the jurisdiction, penalties for crimes against property can be anything from probation to a lengthy prison sentence.

White-collar Crimes

White-collar and other non-violent crimes are other types of felony crimes. This type of crime makes up approximately one-fifth of the total number of felony convictions each year. White-collar crimes are a type of felony crime that takes place in a business or professional setting when one attempts to gain financial benefit at the loss of another. Non-violent crimes may also include unlawful acts such as vandalism and receiving stolen property. Approximately 160,000 people are convicted of this type of felony crime each year in the federal and state judicial systems.


Theft covers a broad range of offenses that involve taking another person’s property without their consent. This includes shoplifting, embezzlement, and carjacking, among others. Penalties can vary widely depending on the value of the items stolen and whether any force was used in the commission of the crime.


Arson is defined as the willful and malicious burning of a structure or vehicle by either fire or explosives. Penalties for this type of felony can be especially harsh because of the potential danger posed to people living or working near the site in question.

Drug Crimes

Drug crimes fall under a number of different categories, including possession and distribution. Penalties are usually based on the quantity of drugs and severity of the crime involved, which could range from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies with prison time. In most cases, mandatory minimum sentences will apply if certain thresholds are met.

Drug offenses are also another major area of felonious acts. These types of felony crimes are generally non-violent actions such as drug possession and drug trafficking. In 2020 approximately 343,000 people were convicted of these types of felony crimes in the United States. Though the state justice system convicts almost twelve times as many drug offenders as the Federal system, the latter is much harsher on these types of felony offenders. Over ninety percent of drug felony offenders will receive jail or prison sentences. These types of felony offenders may also be required to participate in drug or alcohol treatment programs as part of their felony convictions.

Felony Classes

Felonies are the most serious of criminal offenses, requiring extensive legal repercussions. Understanding the different classes of felonies can help inform decisions when navigating the criminal justice system.

The classification of felony offenses and the corresponding penalties can vary depending on the state and jurisdiction. In some states, the most serious felony offenses may be designated as “Class A Felonies,” while in other states they may be referred to as “Class 1 Felonies” or “First-Degree Felonies.”

For example, in New York State, the most serious felony offenses are classified as “Class A Felonies,” which include crimes such as murder, kidnapping, and certain drug offenses. In Illinois, the most serious felony offenses are classified as “Class X Felonies,” which are equivalent to Class A Felony in other states. In California, the most serious felony offenses are generally classified as “First-Degree Felonies,” which include crimes such as murder, rape, and some drug offenses.

Therefore, it’s important to check the specific criminal code of the state or jurisdiction in question to understand the classification of felony offenses and the corresponding penalties.

Capital Felony

A capital felony is the most serious type of crime and carries the harshest penalties. The punishment typically includes life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or even the death penalty in some states. Examples of capital felonies include:

Class A Felony

Class A felonies (Class 1 Felony) is a serious crime that is usually characterized by violent acts committed with malicious intent. A conviction for a First-Degree Felony often carries a long prison sentence along with fines and other punishments at the court’s discretion. Examples of class A felonies include:

Class B Felony

Class B felonies (Class 2 Felony) are generally less serious than class A felonies but still carry severe penalties. Penalties may include jail time, fines, and other forms of punishment such as probation or community service. Examples of Second-Degree Felonies include:

Class C Felony

Class C felonies (Class 3 Felony) are the least serious form of felony and typically involve non-violent acts with little or no malicious intent. Conviction of a class C felony may lead to jail time, fines, or community service. Examples of Third-Degree Felonies include:

Class D Felony

Class D felonies (Class 4  Felony) are also considered lesser offenses than class A or B felonies. Punishment for a class D felony conviction can involve incarceration, fines, or other types of punishment such as probation or community service. Examples of class D felonies include:

Unclassified Felonies

Unclassified felonies are crimes that fall into neither of the four main categories. This category often includes laws that have been recently enacted but do not fit neatly into traditional felony categories. Examples of unclassified felonies include

  • stalking
  • child abuse
  • cyberstalking
  • identity theft

Here’s a table that provides a general guide to sentencing and fines for felony offenses in the United States, based on the federal system:

Class Maximum Sentence Fine
Capital Felony Death or Life without Parole Up to $250,000
Class A Felony Life Imprisonment or up to 40 years Up to $50,000
Class B Felony Up to 20 years Up to $20,000
Class C Felony Up to 10 years Up to $10,000
Class D Felony Up to 5 years Up to $5,000

It’s important to note that this table provides a general guideline and that actual sentencing and fines may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, the jurisdiction, and the discretion of the judge.

Felony Statute of Limitations

In the United States, a statute of limitations is a law that sets a specific period of time in which an individual or legal entity can be charged with a felony crime. This period of time varies depending on the severity of the offense and can range from one year to no limit at all. In some cases, this period may even be extended by special circumstances. The purpose of a felony statute of limitations is to ensure that individuals are not held liable for crimes they committed years earlier after evidence has gone stale and memories have faded.

Serious Felonies

For serious felonies such as homicide, rape, kidnapping, and arson, the statute of limitations is usually set at seven years in most states. This means that if a suspect is accused of committing one of these crimes, they must be prosecuted within seven years after the crime was committed. Fewer states have statutes of limitations for other serious offenses such as assault and burglary, with the timeframe typically between two and five years.

Felony Sexual Offenses

For felony sexual offenses, the situation is more complicated. Some states do not impose any limits on how long prosecutors can bring charges, while others have much stricter guidelines. Statutes of limitations also vary depending on factors such as the age of the victim and the type of crime. For example, in Georgia, charges for indecent liberties with a minor must be brought within four years of the incident if the victim was younger than 16 at the time of the offense. On the other hand, in California, there is no statute of limitations for sexual offenses if DNA evidence is used in the case.

State Statutes of Limitations

Overall, it is important to note that statutes of limitations vary widely from state to state. While they exist to protect individuals from being held accountable for crimes they committed many years ago, they should not be taken as an excuse to commit a crime without consequence. If you have been accused of a serious felony, it is essential to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you on the applicable laws in your state.


Felony crimes are some of the most serious offenses individuals can commit within their communities. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2020 there were almost 5.2 million people with felony convictions in the US. Felony crimes carry more severe penalties than misdemeanors, including longer prison sentences, hefty fines, and a criminal record that can severely limit one’s ability for housing, employment, and financial aid for college.

Criminal Record

Consequences of felony convictions can last long after an offender serves their sentence. A criminal record creates a barrier between an individual and employment opportunities. When people with a criminal record apply for jobs, they may have difficulty even getting an interview due to the stigma of having a felony conviction on their record. Even if they are hired, they are likely to be paid far below their peers.

Housing Challenges

Additionally, someone with a felony conviction may struggle to obtain housing. Landlords often turn away those with a criminal history, which could leave them homeless or confined to overcrowded neighborhoods. Furthermore, a felon can lose access to state and federal benefits such as food stamps, student loans, and public housing. This lack of assistance has been linked to increased rates of recidivism— nearly two-thirds of prisoners released from state facilities are rearrested within three years of release.

Personal Life

The consequences of felony convictions reach beyond the individual committing the crime; it impacts entire families. Loved ones of felons may struggle to cope with the emotional upheaval caused by a family member’s imprisonment and other difficulties associated with this stigma. Relationships may suffer, creating yet another obstacle for those trying to rebuild their lives after prison.

While the number of individuals with felony convictions is steadily increasing, so too is the effort to provide support systems for those returning to society after being incarcerated. Organizations and legislation devoted to helping this population have sprung up across the nation and are having a positive effect. With continued work and support, we can help those affected by these issues as they look toward a better tomorrow.

Final Word

No matter what type of felony you are convicted of, it is important to remember that it is an extremely serious offense with severe consequences. A felony conviction can result in the loss of certain civil liberties such as the right to vote or carry a firearm. It may also disqualify you from certain professional opportunities, or bar you from entry into some countries. It is therefore important to seek legal advice if you find yourself facing felony charges.