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Classification of Criminal Offenses

Criminal statutes in every state have multiple categories of criminal offenses, which often include felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Lawmakers determine the category of a particular offense based on factors like the offense’s severity, the circumstances in which it took place, and the damage caused. Certain provisions of federal criminal law apply to people with felony convictions, so Congress enacted additional definitions of “felony” to apply to state-level offenses.


The most serious criminal offenses, such as those that cause or threaten serious bodily injury to a person, or that cause a person’s death, are categorized as felonies. Theft- or fraud-related offenses, particularly white-collar criminal schemes, are often classified as felonies if the amounts involved exceed certain benchmarks. Repeat offenders might be charged with a felony for an offense that might not be considered a felony in other circumstances.

Felonies are often divided into sub-categories in order to determine punishment, such as first- second-, or third-degree offenses. Punishment may include imprisonment for one year to life, or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in some jurisdictions. Federal criminal law and many states allow imposition of the death penalty in some murder cases.

At a criminal trial for a felony offense, the accused has the right to an attorney, including the right to a public defender if he or she cannot afford a lawyer. Defendants also have the right to have an impartial jury hear their case. The jury must reach a unanimous verdict in order to convict.

Felonies may also be punishable by a fine, often in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. If a defendant pleads guilty to a felony offense, a court may approve a period of probation, during which the defendant must avoid further legal trouble and meet regularly with a probation officer in order to avoid serving the prison term.


Misdemeanor offenses are less serious than felonies but typically still punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine in the range of hundreds or thousands of dollars, and other court-ordered conditions. States may categorize felonies into classes, such as class A or class B misdemeanors, and some states define serious offenses that do not quite rise to the level of a felony as “gross misdemeanors.” Defendants charged with misdemeanor offenses usually have the right to an attorney of their choice and a jury trial, although state laws vary on details such as requiring unanimity for a guilty verdict.


Offenses that might be punishable by a fine, but not jail time, are often known as infractions. These might include traffic offenses, such as speeding, parking violations, and other minor offenses. While a defendant has the right to challenge the state’s allegations in court, other constitutional rights, such as the right to a court-appointed attorney or a jury trial, might not apply.

“Felonies” Under Federal Law

Some federal statutes impose restrictions on people who have been convicted of a felony, either at the state or federal level. These statutes often include specific definitions of “felony” in order to ensure that they are applied consistently.

The Gun Control Act of 1968, for example, made it illegal for people to own or possess firearms in certain circumstances if they had been convicted of an offense with a possible punishment of more than one year, regardless of the person’s actual sentence. Federal immigration law allows the deportation of non-citizens who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony,” defined to include a wide range of offenses involving violence or fraud.

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Why You Should Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney For Felony Charges

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Conviction of the Accomplice of a Criminal Did you know that all crimes are comprised of more than one act? A person who commits a crime and also suffers from some sort of addiction should know that they are liable for both crimes. It is not that people are exempted from committing these acts. It […]

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Criminal Defense Lawyer: Can I Get Out of a Misdemeanor Charge? If you've been charged with a misdemeanor, it may seem impossible to find representation. You can expect a misdemeanor to carry additional penalties, and you may not even be aware of the additional penalties you're being subjected to unless you've been charged. The crime […]

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A Look at the Different Types of Felonies The term "Felony" is a legal term that refers to any crime that carries a sentence of at least one year in prison. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common Felonies and how the different types of Felonies can be handled in a […]

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Why You Should Use a Criminal defense lawyer for Corporate charges There are several reasons why you should consider hiring a Corporate criminal defense lawyer. Often times, individuals who are accused of crimes in the workplace or even for stealing at work find themselves in a very difficult situation. While it is true that being […]

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Infraction violation

Different Types of Violations That May Be Defended A motor vehicle infraction is a type of offense that can be charged to someone in many places. If you want to find out how to deal with this type of offense, it is important that you contact a criminal law attorney who will be able to […]

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How To Choose The Right Criminal Defense Lawyer When you have been accused of a crime you should seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. A skilled criminal attorney can help you get through the legal process with your case. An experienced attorney can take your case from the start to the end […]

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