felony | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Criminal Law

A felony is a serious crime, usually punishable by at least one year in prison.

A felony is a category of crime that is more serious than a misdemeanor and carries more severe penalties, including imprisonment for at least one year in a state or federal prison. In the United States, the distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor is based on the severity of the crime and the punishment that can be imposed.

Crimes that are classified as felonies typically involve serious harm to another person, such as murder, rape, or assault with a deadly weapon. Other examples of felony offenses include drug trafficking, burglary, and white-collar crimes like embezzlement and fraud.

The classification of a crime as a felony or a misdemeanor varies by jurisdiction. In some states, the distinction is based on the potential sentence that may be imposed, while in others, it is determined by the nature of the offense itself. The federal government also has its own system of classifying crimes as felonies or misdemeanors.

In general, such offenses are considered more serious than misdemeanors because they involve more significant harm to individuals or society as a whole. As a result, the penalties for felony convictions are usually more severe and may include imprisonment for several years, fines, probation, and other restrictions on the offender’s rights and activities.

The Model Penal Code, developed by the American Law Institute in 1962, sets out a framework for defining and punishing criminal offenses. According to the Model Penal Code, a felony is an offense that is punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. This definition is widely used in state and federal law to classify crimes as felonies.

In addition to imprisonment, the penalties may include fines, restitution, and other sanctions. In some cases, felony convictions may also result in the loss of certain civil rights, such as the right to vote or own a firearm.

Overall, the classification of a crime as a felony reflects the seriousness of the offense and the harm caused to individuals or society. These offenses carry severe penalties and may result in imprisonment, fines, and other sanctions. It is essential to understand the distinctions between felony and misdemeanor offenses to ensure that defendants receive fair and just treatment under the law.

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Last Modified: 07/06/2021


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