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A felony is traditionally considered a crime of high
seriousness Seriousness (noun; adjective: ''serious'') is an attitude of gravitas, gravity, :wikt:solemnity, solemnity, persistence, and :wikt:earnest, earnestness toward something considered to be of importance. Some notable philosophers and commentators have ...
, whereas a
misdemeanor A misdemeanor (American English, spelled misdemeanour elsewhere) is any "lesser" crime, criminal act in some common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punishment, punished less severely than more serious felony, felonies, but theoret ...
is regarded as less serious. The term "felony" originated from English
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
(from the French medieval word "félonie") to describe an offense that resulted in the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods, to which additional punishments including
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ' ...

capital punishment
could be added; other crimes were called misdemeanors. Following conviction of a felony in a court of law, a person may be described as a felon or a convicted felon. Some common law countries and jurisdictions no longer classify crimes as felonies or misdemeanors and instead use other distinctions, such as by classifying serious crimes as
indictable offence In many common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dicti ...
s and less serious crimes as
summary offence A summary or petty offence is a violation Violation or violations may refer to: * Law violation * Violation (basketball), the most minor class of an illegal action in basketball * Bipolar violation, when two pulses of the same polarity occur wi ...
s. In the United States, where the felony/misdemeanor distinction is still widely applied, the federal government defines a felony as a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year. If punishable by exactly one year or less, it is classified as a misdemeanor. The classification is based upon a crime's potential sentence, so a crime remains classified as a felony even if a defendant convicted of a felony receives a sentence of one year or less. Individual states may classify crimes by other factors, such as seriousness or context. In some
civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
jurisdictions, such as Italy and Spain, the term ''
delict Delict (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Rep ...
'' is used to describe serious offenses, a category similar to common law felony. In other nations, such as Germany, France, Belgium, and Switzerland, more serious offenses are described as ''crimes'', while ''misdemeanors'' or ''delicts'' (or délits) are less serious. In still others (such as Brazil and Portugal), ''crimes'' and ''delicts'' are synonymous (more serious) and are opposed to
contravention In many civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the ...
s (less serious).


Overview


Classification by subject matter

Felonies may include but are not limited to the following: *
Murder Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification (jurisprudence), justification or valid excuse (legal), excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought. ("The killing of another person w ...

Murder
* Aggravated
assault An assault is the act of inflicting physical harm or unwanted physical contact upon a person or, in some specific legal definitions, a threat or attempt to commit such an action. It is both a crime In ordinary language, a crime is an u ...

assault
or
battery Battery may refer to: Energy source * Electric battery, an electrochemical device to provide electrical power ** Automotive battery, a device to provide power to certain functions of an automobile ** List of battery types * Energy storage, inclu ...
*
Manslaughter Manslaughter is a common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black ...
(unintentional killing of another) *
Animal cruelty Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse, animal neglect or animal cruelty, is the infliction by omission (neglect) or by commission by humans of suffering Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, may be an experience of unpleasantness and a ...
*
Arson {, The remains of Kyoto Animation , often abbreviated , is a Japanese animation studio and light novel publisher located in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture. Founded in 1981 by Yoko and Hideaki Hatta, it has produced anime works including ''The Melancholy o ...
*
High speed chase A car chase is the vehicular overland chase of one party by another, involving at least one automobile or other wheeled motor vehicle Electric bicycles parked in Yangzhou's main street, Wenchang Lu. They are a very common way of transport in th ...
*
Burglary Burglary, also called breaking and entering and sometimes housebreaking, is illegally entering a building or other areas to commit a crime. Usually that offence is theft, but most jurisdictions include others within the ambit of burglary. To co ...
*
Robbery Robbery is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of Sta ...

Robbery
/
Extortion Extortion is the practice of obtaining benefit through . In most jurisdictions it is likely to constitute a ; the bulk of this article deals with such cases. is the simplest and most common form of extortion, although making unfounded threat ...
*
Tax evasion Tax evasion is an illegal attempt to defeat the imposition of taxes A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a g ...
*
Fraud In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by ...

Fraud
*
Cybercrime Cybercrime is a crime that involves a computer A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Modern computers can perform generic sets of op ...
*
Identity theft Identity theft occurs when someone uses another person's personal identifying information, like their name, identifying number, or credit card number, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. The term ''identity theft'' was coi ...

Identity theft
* The manufacture, sale, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute of certain types or quantities of illegal drugs * In some jurisdictions, the possession of certain types of illegal drugs for personal use. *
Grand larceny ''Grand Larceny'' is a 1987 thriller film Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots is particular ...
or
grand theft Theft is the taking of another person's property or Service (economics), services without that person's permission or consent with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it. The word ''theft'' is also used as a synonym or informal shortha ...
, ''i.e.'',
larceny Larceny is a crime involving the unlawful taking or theft Theft is the taking of another person's property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themse ...
or
theft Theft is the taking of another person's property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of pr ...

theft
above a certain statutorily established value or quantity of goods *
Vandalism Vandalism is the action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property. The term includes property damage Property damage ( cf. criminal damage in England and Wales) is damage or destruction of real Real may r ...

Vandalism
on federal property. *
Impersonation An impersonator is someone who imitates or copies the behavior or actions of another. There are many reasons for impersonating someone: *Entertainment: An entertainer impersonates a celebrity, generally for entertainment, and makes fun of t ...
of a law enforcement officer with intention of deception *
Treason Treason is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Cr ...
*
Rape Rape is a type of sexual assault Sexual assault is an act in which one intentionally sexually touches another person without that person's consent Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. ...

Rape
/
sexual assault Sexual assault is an act in which one intentionally sexually touches another person without that person's consent Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. It is a term of common speech, with ...
*
Kidnapping In criminal law Criminal law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and infl ...
*
Obstruction of justice Obstruction of justice, in United States jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin ''Wikt:ius#Latin, juris'' 'law' + ''Wikt:dictio, dictio'' 'declaration') is the practical authority granted to a legal body to administer justice, as defined by the ...
*
Perjury Perjury is the intentional act of swearing a false oath Traditionally an oath (from Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is beha ...
*
Copyright infringement Copyright infringement (at times referred to as piracy) is the use of works Works may refer to: People * Caddy Works Pierce "Caddy" Works (January 2, 1896 – July 19, 1982) was an American basketball and baseball coach. He was the head ba ...
*
Child pornography Child pornography (also called CP, child sexual abuse material, CSAM, child porn, or kiddie porn) is pornography that exploits children for sexual stimulation. It may be produced with the direct involvement or sexual assault of a child (also kn ...
*
Forgery Forgery is a white-collar crime The term "white-collar crime" refers to financially motivated, nonviolent or non directly violent crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. Th ...
* Threatening an official (police officer, judge) *
Blackmail Blackmail is an act of coercion using the threat of revealing or publicizing either Substantial truth, substantially true or false information about a person or people unless certain demands are met. It is often damaging information, and may be ...
*
Driving under the influence Driving under the influence (DUI) is the offense of driving, operating, or being in control of a vehicle while impaired by alcohol (drug), alcohol or drugs (including recreational drugs and those prescribed by physicians), to a level that rende ...
(certain DUI cases involving bodily injury and/or death. In some jurisdictions property damage over a certain amount elevates a DUI charge to a felony as well) Broadly, felonies can be characterized as either violent or nonviolent: * Violent offenses usually contain some element of force or a threat of force against a person. Some jurisdictions classify as violent certain property crimes involving a strong likelihood of
psychological trauma Psychological trauma is damage to a person's mind as a result of one or more events that cause overwhelming amounts of stress (psychological), stress that exceed the person's ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved, eventually leading t ...
to the property owner; for example, Virginia treats both common-law
burglary Burglary, also called breaking and entering and sometimes housebreaking, is illegally entering a building or other areas to commit a crime. Usually that offence is theft, but most jurisdictions include others within the ambit of burglary. To co ...
(the
breaking and entering Burglary, also called breaking and entering and sometimes housebreaking, is illegally entering a building or other areas to commit a crime. Usually that offence is theft Theft is the taking of another person's property or Service (economics ...
of a dwelling house at night with the intent to commit larceny, assault and battery, or any felony therein) and statutory burglary (breaking and entering with further criminal intent but without the dwelling-house or time elements, such that the definition applies to break-ins at any time and of businesses as well as of dwelling houses) as felonies. Some offenses, though similar in nature, may be felonies or misdemeanors depending on the circumstances. For example, the illegal manufacture, distribution or possession of controlled substances may be a felony, although possession of small amounts may be only a
misdemeanor A misdemeanor (American English, spelled misdemeanour elsewhere) is any "lesser" crime, criminal act in some common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punishment, punished less severely than more serious felony, felonies, but theoret ...
. Possession of a deadly weapon may be generally legal, but carrying the same weapon into a restricted area such as a school may be viewed as a serious offense, regardless of whether there is intent to use the weapon. Additionally,
driving under the influence Driving under the influence (DUI) is the offense of driving, operating, or being in control of a vehicle while impaired by alcohol (drug), alcohol or drugs (including recreational drugs and those prescribed by physicians), to a level that rende ...
in some states may be a misdemeanor if a first offense, but a felony on subsequent offenses. :"The
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
divided participants in a felony into four basic categories: (1) first-degree principals, those who actually committed the crime in question; (2) second-degree principals, aiders and
abettor Abettor (from ''to abet,'' Old French Old French (, , ; French language, Modern French: ) was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. Rather than a unified Dialect#Dialect or language, language, Old Frenc ...
s present at the scene of the crime; (3)
accessories Accessory may refer to: * Accessory (legal term), a person who assists a criminal In anatomy * Accessory bone * Accessory muscle * Accessory nucleus, in anatomy, a cranial nerve nucleus * Accessory nerve The accessory nerve is a cranial ...
before the fact, aiders and abettors who helped the principal before the basic criminal event took place; and (4) accessories after the fact, persons who helped the principal after the basic criminal event took place. In the course of the 20th century, however, American jurisdictions eliminated the distinction among the first three categories." ''Gonzales v. Duenas-Alvarez'', (citations omitted).


Classification by seriousness

A felony may be punishable with imprisonment for more than one year or
death Death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living Living or The Living may refer to: Common meanings *Life, a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organi ...

death
in the case of the most serious felonies, such as
murder Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification (jurisprudence), justification or valid excuse (legal), excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought. ("The killing of another person w ...

murder
. Indeed, historically at
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
, felonies were crimes punishable by either
death Death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living Living or The Living may refer to: Common meanings *Life, a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organi ...

death
or forfeiture of
property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have the right to consume, alter, share, r ...
. All felonies remain a serious crime, but concerns of proportionality (i.e., that the punishment fit the crime) have in modern times prompted legislatures to require or permit the imposition of less serious punishments, ranging from lesser terms of
imprisonment Imprisonment (from , via French language, French , originally from atin, arrest, from , , "to seize") in law is the specific state of being physically incarcerated or confined in an institutional setting such as a prison. When it comes to iss ...
to the substitution of a
jail A prison, also known as a jail or gaol (dated, standard English In an English-speaking country This article is intended to provide details and data regarding the geographical distribution of all English speakers, regardless of the legisla ...
sentence or even the
suspension Suspension or suspended may refer to: Science and engineering * Suspension (topology), in mathematics * Suspension (dynamical systems), in mathematics * Suspension of a ring, in mathematics * Suspension (chemistry), small solid particles suspende ...
of all incarceration contingent upon a defendant's successful completion of
probation Probation in criminal law Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It proscribes conduct perceived as threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and co ...
. Standards for measurement of an offense's seriousness include attempts''Offense Seriousness Scaling: An Alternative to Scenario Methods'', Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Volume 9, Number 3, 309–322, James P. Lynch and Mona J. E. Danner

/ref> to quantitatively estimate and compare the effects of a crime upon its specific victims or upon society generally. In much of the United States, all or most felonies are placed into one of various classes according to their seriousness and their potential punishment upon conviction. The number of classifications and the corresponding crimes vary by state and are determined by the legislature. Usually, the legislature also determines the maximum punishment allowable for each felony class; doing so avoids the necessity of defining specific sentences for every possible crime. For example: * Virginia classifies most felonies by number, ranging from Class 6 (least severe: 1 to 5 years in prison or up to 12 months in jail) through Class 2 (20 years to life, ''e.g.'', first-degree murder and aggravated malicious
wounding A wound is a type of injury which happens relatively quickly in which skin is torn, cut, or punctured (an ''open'' wound), or where blunt force physical trauma, trauma causes a bruise, contusion (a ''closed'' wound). In pathology, it specifically ...
) up to Class 1 (
life imprisonment Life imprisonment is any sentence Sentence(s) or The Sentence may refer to: Common uses * Sentence (law), the punishment a judge gives to a defendant found guilty of a crime * Sentence (linguistics), a grammatical unit of language * Sentence ...

life imprisonment
or the
death penalty Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ' ...

death penalty
, reserved for certain types of murders). Some felonies remain outside the classification system. * New York State classifies felonies by letter, with some classes divided into sub-classes by Roman numeral; classes range from Class E (encompassing the least severe felonies) through Classes D, C, B, and A–II up to Class A–I (encompassing the most severe). * Massachusetts classifies felony as an offense that carries any prison time. * Ohio classifies felonies by degree ranging from first, second, third, fourth, to fifth degree. First-degree felonies are the most serious category, while fifth-degree felonies are the least serious. This is broadly the approach taken by the
Model Penal CodeThe Model Penal Code (MPC) is a model act designed to stimulate and assist U.S. state legislatures to update and standardize the penal law of the United States of America The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United Stat ...
, although the Code identifies only three degrees of felony.


England and Wales


History

Sir William Blackstone Sir William Blackstone (10 July 1723 – 14 February 1780) was an English jurist, judge and Tory (British political party), Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the ''Commentaries on the Laws of England''. Bo ...

Sir William Blackstone
wrote that felony "comprises every species of crime, which occasioned at common law the forfeiture of lands or goods".Blackstone, W. (1765).
Commentaries on the Laws of England
' (Book IV chapter 7) Oxford:
Clarendon Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press 200px, The Pitt Building in Cambridge, which used to be the headquarters of Cambridge University Press, and now serves as a conference centre for the Press. A university press is an academic ...
.
The word ''felony'' was feudal in origin, denoting the value of a man's entire property: "the consideration for which a man gives up his fief".Blackstone. Blackstone refutes the misconception that felony simply means an offence punishable by death, by demonstrating that not every felony is capital, and not every
capital offence Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the State (polity), state-sanctioned killing of a person as punishment for a crime. The sentence (law), sentence ordering that someone is punished with the death penalty is called a dea ...

capital offence
is a felony. However he concedes that "the idea of felony is indeed so generally connected with that of capital punishment, that we find it hard to separate them; and to this usage the interpretations of the law do now conform." The death penalty for felony could be avoided by pleading
benefit of clergy In English law, the benefit of clergy ( Law Latin: ''privilegium clericale'') was originally a provision by which clergy Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, ...
, which gradually evolved to exempt everybody (whether clergy or not) from that punishment for a first offence, except for
high treason Treason is the crime of attacking a Sovereign state, state authority to which one owes allegiance. This typically includes acts such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to Coup d'etat, overthrow its government, Es ...
and offences expressly excluded by statute. During the 19th century criminal law reform incrementally reduced the number of capital offences to five (see
Capital punishment in the United Kingdom Capital punishment in the United Kingdom was used from ancient times until the second half of the 20th century. The last executions in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the Uni ...
), and forfeiture for felony was abolished by the
Forfeiture Act 1870 The Forfeiture Act 1870 (33 & 34 Vict c 23) is a British Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or cou ...
. Consequently, the distinction between felony and misdemeanour became increasingly arbitrary. The surviving differences consisted of different rules of evidence and procedure, and the Law Commission recommended that felonies be abolished altogether. This was done by the
Criminal Law Act 1967 The Criminal Law Act 1967 (c.58) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, t ...
, which set the criminal practice for all crimes as that of misdemeanour, and introduced a new system of classifying crimes as either "arrestable" and "non-arrestable" offences (according to which a general power of arrest was available for crimes punishable by five years' imprisonment or more). Arrestable offences were abolished in 2006, and today crimes are classified as
indictable In many common law jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin ''Wikt:ius#Latin, juris'' 'law' + ''Wikt:dictio, dictio'' 'declaration') is the practical authority granted to a legal body to administer justice, as defined by the kind of case, and the ...
or
summary Summary may refer to: * Abstract (summary), shortening a passage or a write-up without changing its meaning but by using different words and sentences * Epitome, a summary or miniature form * Abridgement, the act of reducing a written wo ...
offences, the only distinction being the mode of trial (by jury in the
crown court The Crown Court of England and Wales is, together with the High Court of Justice The High Court of Justice in London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the ...

crown court
or summarily in the
magistrates' court#REDIRECT Magistrates' court A magistrates' court is a lower court where, in several jurisdictions Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages ...
, respectively).


Procedure

The Trials for Felony Act 1836 (6 & 7 Will. 4 c. 114) allowed persons indicted for felonies to be represented by counsel or attorney.


Terminology

A person being prosecuted for this was called a
prisoner A prisoner (also known as an inmate or detainee) is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an i ...
, though increasingly "accused" or "defendant" was preferred.


Ireland

In the
law of the Republic of Ireland The law of Ireland consists of constitutional, statute and common law. The highest law in the State is the Constitution of Ireland The Constitution of Ireland ( ga, Bunreacht na hÉireann, ) is the constitution, fundamental law of Republic of ...
the distinction between felony and misdemeanor was abolished by section 3 of the Criminal Law Act, 1997, such that the law previously applied to misdemeanours was extended to all offences. Minister
Joan Burton Joan Burton (born 1 February 1949) is a former Irish Labour Party (Ireland), Labour Party politician who served as Tánaiste and Leader of the Labour Party (Ireland), Leader of the Labour Party from 2014 to 2016, Minister for Social Protection ...

Joan Burton
, introducing the bill in the , said "The distinction has been eroded over many years and in today's conditions has no real relevance. Today, for example, serious offences such as fraudulent conversion and obtaining property by false pretences are classified as misdemeanours whereas a relatively trivial offence such as stealing a bar of chocolate is a felony." The 1997 Act, modelled on the English
Criminal Law Act 1967 The Criminal Law Act 1967 (c.58) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, t ...
, introduced the category of "arrestable offence" for those with penalties of five years' imprisonment or greater. The 1937 Constitution declares that the
parliamentary privilege Parliamentary privilege is a legal immunity enjoyed by members of certain legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, pat ...
, which protects
Oireachtas The Oireachtas ( , ), sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, count ...
members from arrest travelling to or from the legislature, does not apply to "
treason Treason is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Cr ...
, felony, and
breach of the peace Breach of the peace, or disturbing the peace, is a legal term used in constitutional law in English-speaking countries and in a public order sense in the several jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It is a form of disorderly conduct. Public order ...
". The 1996 Constitutional Review Group recommended replacing "felony" with "serious criminal offence".


United States

The reform of harsh felony laws that had originated in Great Britain was deemed "one of the first fruits of liberty" after the United States became independent. In many parts of the United States, a felon can face long-term legal consequences persisting after the end of their imprisonment. The status and designation as a "felon" is considered permanent, and is not extinguished upon
sentence Sentence(s) or The Sentence may refer to: Common uses * Sentence (law), the punishment a judge gives to a defendant found guilty of a crime * Sentence (linguistics), a grammatical unit of language * Sentence (mathematical logic), a formula not cont ...
completion even if
parole Parole is the early release of a prisoner who agrees to abide by certain conditions, originating from the French word ''parole'' ("speech, spoken words" but also "promise"). The term became associated during the Middle Ages with the release of ...

parole
,
probation Probation in criminal law Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It proscribes conduct perceived as threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and co ...
or early release was given. The status can be cleared only by a successful
appeal In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is describ ...
or . However, felons may qualify for restoration of some rights after a certain period of time has passed. The consequences felons face in most states include: *
Disenfranchisement Disfranchisement, also called disenfranchisement, or voter disqualification is the restriction of suffrage Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, is the right to vote in public, political elections (although the term is sometime ...
(expressly permitted by the Fourteenth Amendment, as noted by the
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...

Supreme Court
in ''
Richardson v. Ramirez ''Richardson v. Ramirez'', 418 U.S. 24 (1974), is a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the Supreme court, highest court in the Federal judiciary of the United States, federal ...
'') * Exclusion from obtaining certain
license A license (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. Cur ...

license
s, such as a visa, or professional licenses required to legally operate (making some vocations off-limits to felons) *Ineligibility to hold office in a
labor union A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Cu ...
(a provision of the Landrum–Griffin Act of 1959) * Exclusion from purchase and possession of
firearm A firearm is any type of gun A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube ( gun barrel) to launch typically solid projectiles, but can also project pressurized liquid (e.g. water guns/ cannons, spray guns for painting ...
s,
ammunition Ammunition (informally ammo) is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are us ...

ammunition
, and
body armor Body armor, also known as body armour, personal armor/armour, or a suit/coat of armour, is protective clothing designed to absorb or deflect physical attacks. Historically used to protect , today it is also used by various types of ( in particu ...
* Ineligibility to serve on a
jury A jury is a sworn body of people (the jurors) convened to render an impartial Impartiality (also called evenhandedness or fair-mindedness) is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objectivity (philosophy), objective ...

jury
* Ineligibility for government assistance or
welfare Welfare (or commonly, social welfare) is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs Maslow's hierarchy of needs is an idea in psychology Psychology is the science of mind and ...
* Removal (deportation) (if not a citizen) Additionally, many job applications and rental applications ask about felony history (with the exception of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) and answering dishonestly on them can be grounds for rejecting the application, or termination if the lie is discovered after hire. Convicted felons may not be eligible for certain professional licenses or bonds, or may raise the cost of an employer's insurance. It is broadly legal to discriminate against felons in hiring decisions as well as the decision to rent housing to a person, so felons can face barriers to finding both jobs and housing. Many landlords will not rent to felons, although a blanket ban on renting to felons may violate federal housing law. A common term of parole is to avoid associating with other felons. In some neighborhoods with high rates of felony conviction, this creates a situation where many felons live with a constant threat of being arrested for violating parole. Banks may refuse to issue loans to felons, and a felony conviction may prevent employment in banking or finance. In some states, restoration of those rights depends on repayment of various fees associated with the felon's arrest, processing, and prison stay, such as restitution to victims, or outstanding fines.


Restoration of rights

The primary means of restoring civil rights that are lost as a result of a felony conviction are and
expungement In the common law legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law or combinations of these. However, the legal system of each countr ...
. For state law convictions, expungement is determined by the law of the state. Many states do not allow expungement, regardless of the offense, though felons can seek pardons and clemency, potentially including restoration of rights. Federal law does not have any provisions for persons convicted of federal felonies in a federal
United States district court#REDIRECT United States district court The United States district courts are the general trial court A trial court or court of first instance is a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the aut ...
to apply to have their record expunged. At present the only relief that an individual convicted of a felony in federal court may receive is a presidential
pardon A pardon is a government decision to allow a person to be relieved of some or all of the legal consequences resulting from a criminal conviction. A pardon may be granted before or after conviction for the crime, depending on the laws of the j ...

pardon
, which does not expunge the conviction, but rather grants relief from the
civil disabilities Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' political freedom, freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one's entitlement to participate in the civil and p ...
that stem from it.


Germany

A felony (, a word also translated in less technical contexts as simply "crime") is defined in the (Criminal Code, StGB) as an unlawful act () that is punishable with a minimum of one year's imprisonment. A misdemeanour (''Vergehen'') is any other crime punishable by imprisonment with a minimum of less than one year or by fine. However, in some cases a severe version of a misdemeanor may be punished with imprisonment of more than one year, yet the crime itself remains considered a misdemeanor. The same applies for a milder version of a felony that is punished with imprisonment less than a year. An
attempt An attempt to commit a crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lind ...

attempt
to commit a felony is itself a crime, whereas an attempt to commit a misdemeanor is a crime only if specifically prescribed as such by law.StGB Section 23: Criminality of the Attempt
Bundesministerium der Justiz. "Der Versuch eines Verbrechens ist stets strafbar, der Versuch eines Vergehens nur dann, wenn das Gesetz es ausdrücklich bestimmt."


See also

*
Compounding a felonyCompounding a felony was an offence under the common law of England and was classified as a misdemeanour A misdemeanor (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. Engl ...
*
Criminal law Criminal law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
* Employment discrimination against persons with criminal records in the United States *
Federal crime in the United States In the United States, a federal crime or federal offense is an act that is made illegal by U.S. federal legislation enacted by both the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives and signed into law by the president. Prosec ...
*
Felony murder rule The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine Doctrine (from la, Wikt:doctrina, doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification (law), codification of beliefs or a body of teacher, teachings or instructions, taught Value (persona ...
* Backberend and Handhabend *
Indictable offence In many common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dicti ...
(Canadian equivalent of felony) *
Summary offence A summary or petty offence is a violation Violation or violations may refer to: * Law violation * Violation (basketball), the most minor class of an illegal action in basketball * Bipolar violation, when two pulses of the same polarity occur wi ...
*
Misdemeanor A misdemeanor (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States ...
* One strike, you're out *
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act is a United States federal law The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law, of which the most important is the nation's Constitu ...
(RICO) *
Three-strikes law In the , habitual offender laws (commonly referred to as three-strikes laws) were first implemented on March 7, 1994, and are part of the 's Anti-Violence Strategy. These s require both a severe violent and two other previous convictions to ser ...


Notes


References

{{History of English criminal law Crimes
Criminal law {{CatAutoTOC Public law Common law, Criminal law Law by issue, Criminal law Criminal justice, Law Law by type ...
Criminal law legal terminology