What is classified as a felony?

What is classified as a felony?


In the United States, crimes are categorized into different classes based on their severity and the potential punishment they carry. One such category is a felony, which represents the most serious types of crimes. Being charged with a felony can have significant legal, social, and personal consequences. This article will explore what constitutes a felony in the United States, its implications, and the potential penalties involved.

Table of Contents

  • What Defines a Felony?
  • Examples of Felonies
  • Differences Between Felonies and Misdemeanors
  • Potential Consequences of a Felony Conviction
  • Expungement and Felony Convictions
  • FAQs
  • Conclusion

What Defines a Felony?

A felony is a serious criminal offense that is typically punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. Unlike misdemeanors, which are less serious offenses, felonies involve more significant harm to individuals or society as a whole. The classification of crimes as felonies varies between jurisdictions, but common factors that determine whether a crime is considered a felony include:

  • The severity of the crime
  • The potential harm caused to others
  • The presence of aggravating factors

Felonies are typically classified into different degrees or classes, with higher degrees representing more serious offenses. The specific classification and potential penalties for each felony vary by state.

Examples of Felonies

There are numerous crimes that can be classified as felonies in the United States. Some common examples include:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Drug trafficking

It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, and there are many other offenses that can be considered felonies under certain circumstances.

Differences Between Felonies and Misdemeanors

The main difference between felonies and misdemeanors lies in the severity of the crime and the potential consequences. While both types of offenses are considered crimes, misdemeanors are generally less serious and carry lighter penalties. Some key differences include:

  • Potential imprisonment: Felonies often carry a potential sentence of more than one year in prison, while misdemeanors typically have a maximum sentence of one year or less.
  • Fines: Felonies are associated with higher fines compared to misdemeanors.
  • Collateral consequences: Felony convictions can have long-term consequences, such as loss of voting rights, restrictions on firearm ownership, and limited employment opportunities.

The specific classification of a crime as a felony or misdemeanor depends on the jurisdiction and the severity of the offense.

Potential Consequences of a Felony Conviction

Being convicted of a felony can have serious and long-lasting consequences. Some potential repercussions include:

  • Imprisonment: Felony convictions often result in lengthy prison sentences, which can significantly impact a person’s life and future opportunities.
  • Fines: Felonies are associated with substantial fines, which can place a significant financial burden on individuals.
  • Loss of civil rights: In some states, felony convictions can result in the loss of certain civil rights, such as voting, serving on a jury, or holding public office.
  • Difficulty finding employment: Having a felony conviction on record can make it challenging to find employment, as many employers conduct background checks.
  • Housing and financial limitations: Felony convictions may affect a person’s ability to secure housing, loans, and other financial resources.

It’s essential to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney if you are facing felony charges to understand the potential consequences and mount a robust defense.

Expungement and Felony Convictions

In some cases, individuals with felony convictions may be eligible for expungement, which is the legal process of sealing or erasing criminal records. Expungement laws vary by state, but they generally allow individuals to move forward with their lives without the stigma of a criminal conviction. Expungement can provide a fresh start by making it easier to find employment, secure housing, and restore certain civil rights.

If you have been convicted of a felony and are interested in expungement, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and determine your eligibility.


Q: Can a felony conviction be reduced to a misdemeanor?

A: In some cases, it may be possible for a felony conviction to be reduced to a misdemeanor through a process known as “wobblers.” This typically depends on the specific circumstances of the case and the individual’s criminal history.

Q: What are the potential defenses against felony charges?

A: The potential defenses against felony charges vary depending on the specific crime and circumstances. Some common defenses include lack of evidence, self-defense, duress, and constitutional violations.

Q: Can a felony conviction be expunged?

A: Expungement eligibility for felony convictions varies by state. It’s best to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can assess your situation and provide guidance on the expungement process in your jurisdiction.


Understanding what constitutes a felony is crucial for navigating the legal system and comprehending the potential consequences of serious criminal offenses. Felonies represent the most severe category of crimes, carrying significant penalties and long-term implications. If you find yourself facing felony charges, it’s essential to seek professional legal advice to protect your rights and mount a strong defense.