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Understanding the Different Types of Felony Charges – A Comprehensive Guide

The best guides meet readers at their current knowledge level and then build on that foundation. They define terms, make comparisons, and provide additional background information.

The criminal justice system divides crimes into infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. As the most serious crimes, felonies often result in longer prison terms.

What is a Felony?

A felony is any crime that carries a prison sentence. Many states will classify a felony into different degrees, with Class A being the most severe and including first-degree murder.

The rest of the classifications include Classes B, C, D, and E, which get progressively less severe. However, even if convicted felon does not spend time in jail, they can still face severe long-term consequences, such as losing voting rights or being barred from jury duty.

In most cases, prosecutors can file either misdemeanor or felony charges. Whether they do so will usually be based on the severity of the crime and the circumstances surrounding it.

Classification of Felonies

Many serious crimes are categorized as felonies. These include offenses that cause or threaten serious bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage. They also often involve repeated criminal acts or crimes against a family member. Fraud-related offenses such as embezzlement and money laundering are also frequently classified as felonies.

Most states use a letter or level classification system to rank the severity of felonies. However, they differ in the details, such as whether they require unanimity to convict a defendant. Defendants charged with felony offenses have the right to an attorney and a jury trial.

Violent Crimes

One can be accused of some of the most serious felonies, including violent crimes. They involve any criminal act that has as an element the attempt, threat, or infliction of physical harm on another person.

These include murder, armed robbery, and many severe sex-related offenses. They are classified as Class A or Class 1 felonies, carrying the highest prison sentences.

If you face a felony charge, it will also likely mean that you will have a permanent record and be required to pay restitution to victims. However, there are several defenses that you can use to defend yourself against these charges, including duress and necessity.

Aggravated Assault

Felonies related to violence, such as homicide and aggravated assault, are among the most serious. Other crimes often qualifying as felonies include hate crimes, robbery, and fraud. A conviction for a felony can ruin your chances of getting jobs, the right to vote, and travel outside the country.

Felonies become more severe when they include special victims like police officers or people with disabilities. A simple assault can become an aggravated assault if you use a weapon or threaten to cause serious injury. For example, pointing what appears to be a gun at someone could lead to aggravated assault charges.


Fraud involves deception for financial gain and is the most common felony offense. It can be punished with imprisonment, restitution orders to reimburse victims and fines.

The amount of punishment that can be received from a conviction for fraud depends on the nature of the case and its seriousness. 

Drug Crimes

Felony drug offenses include charges related to the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, or possession of illegal drugs. Possessing certain types of paraphernalia, such as scales, jars, or baggies, can result in criminal penalties.

Unlike misdemeanors, felony crimes involve substantial amounts of jail time. Defendants are typically incarcerated in state prisons rather than county jails.

As such, felony convictions carry severe penalties that can have a long-lasting effect on an individual and their family. Moreover, many of these offenses can lead to hefty fines and monetary punishment.

Driving While Intoxicated

Driving while intoxicated, also known as DUI, is a crime involving alcohol or drugs to the extent that they impair the individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. In many jurisdictions, individuals who test below the legal limit of BAC may still be charged with this offense if they are deemed to be driving dangerously and can prove impairment through other means.

A felony conviction can have long-term consequences and negatively impact an individual’s life, affecting their ability to rent an apartment or home, obtain employment, and even conduct financial transactions.



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