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Felony offenses vary in severity and penalties depending on the crime and its circumstances. It’s important to know the implications of a felony and how this level of offense compares to a misdemeanor.

Wooden gavel on table in courtroom

What Is a Felony?

A felony is a crime of high seriousness, compared to less serious misdemeanor offenses. In the United States, felonies are generally crimes that have a potential punishment of over a year of incarceration. The crime is still considered a felony even if the defendant receives a sentence of under a year of incarceration. Incarceration for felonies is typically at a state prison.

Convicted felons face other severe consequences, including losing voting rights, being barred from jury duty, losing professional licenses, and having difficulty obtaining jobs and housing. Misdemeanors have less severe long-term consequences but may still hinder those convicted in the future.

Most felonies also include supervised release programs for a year or longer after the sentence is served, depending on the crime severity. Probation periods are also possible for some felonies. Fines may be imposed based on the criminal statute, and victims may also be granted restitution. 

Which Felonies Are Most Common?

Many types of crimes against people and property are considered felonies. Here are the seven most common felonies in the United States:

  1. Drug-related crimes: Considered crimes against property, drug felonies include possession, use, manufacture, or sale of certain drugs. The severity of the crime depends on several state-specific criteria, including the quantity and type of drug and if it’s being sold, trafficked, or distributed. Felony drug charges often result in over a year in prison and serious criminal fines.
  2. Property crimes: These are against property instead of individuals, except for arson, a crime that may threaten people. Property crimes include burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, destruction of property, and arson. Penalties vary depending on how state statutes address the monetary value of the property stolen or destroyed. The felony threshold is commonly $1,000. Prison time of a year or more plus restitution based on property loss are common.
  3. Driving under the influence (DUI): This includes the influence of alcohol or other substances and is a common felony if it meets certain thresholds like blood alcohol level, injuries to others, or criminal record. Prior DUIs or a prior felony add to the severity. Felony DUI charges may carry lengthy prison sentences, extremely high fines, license revocation, ignition interlock device requirements, and counseling programs.
  4. Violent crimes: Crimes such as murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, robbery, and sexual assault are categorized as violent crimes. Robbery is also considered a violent crime if it involves physical harm or threats of harm. Penalties vary greatly, from 20-60 years for first-degree murder to several years for aggravated assault. Fines of up to $25,000 are also possible.
  5. Disorderly conduct: Creating a public disturbance can be considered a felony. Another example of felony disorderly conduct is falsely reporting a fire or other emergency. For disorderly conduct crimes that are escalated to a felony, sentencing guidelines could exceed one-year imprisonment plus a fine.
  6. Liquor law violations: These can escalate to severe felony charges if someone supplies alcohol to minors and severe injury or death occurs. Such a violation could result in over a year of imprisonment and high fines.
  7. Offenses against family: This includes crimes against a relative or significant other. Such offenses include assault, harassment, stalking, and disorderly conduct. Several misdemeanor offenses against family can result in felony aggravated family offense. Such offenses draw contempt from judges and prosecutors who will seek severe penalties of over a year imprisonment.

Numerous crimes are categorized as felonies by state and federal laws. The above seven are among the most commonly occurring.

How Are Felonies Classified?

Felonies are characterized as violent or nonviolent. Violent felonies typically have an element of force or threats of force against a person. Most felonies have state-specific classifications to rank their severity and corresponding incarceration and fine guidelines. Some states categorize felonies, while others have individual guidelines on individual crimes. Some states also use hybrid approaches to incarceration and fine guidelines.

Illinois Felony Classifications

In Illinois, the felony categories and sentencing guidelines are:

  • Class X felonies include armed home invasion and firing a gun during an aggravated battery. Penalties are generally six to 30 years.
  • Class 1 felonies include burglary, sexual assault, and second-degree murder. Penalties are generally four to 15 years.
  • Class 2 felonies include aggravated domestic battery causing severe injury and robbery. Penalties are generally three to seven years.
  • Class 3 felonies include aggravated battery and theft. Penalties can reach two to five years of imprisonment.
  • Class 4 felonies include crimes of under $300 through identity theft or selling stolen property. Penalties include one to three years imprisonment.
  • Murder in the first degree is a separate classification and carries a 20- to 60-year penalty.

The statute of limitations for prosecuting felonies is generally three years from the date of the crime in Illinois, with the exception of murder and other more serious felonies. Some crimes have longer limitations on the prosecution.

Indiana Felony Classifications

In Indiana, the felony categories and sentencing guidelines are:

  • Level 1 felonies include aggravated sexual assault with a weapon. This classification has a typical 20- to 40-year penalty.
  • Level 2 felonies include voluntary manslaughter and have penalties of 10 to 20 years.
  • Level 3 felonies include aggravated battery causing serious injury and carry a three- to a 16-year prison term.
  • Level 4 felonies include arson and may result in sentences of two to 12 years.
  • Level 5 felonies include involuntary manslaughter and carry sentences of one to six years.
  • Level 6 felonies include vehicle theft and may be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor for some violators. Penalties vary from six months to two and a half years.
  • Murder is an unclassified felony with a penalty of death or 45 to 65 years in prison.

The statute of limitations for felonies, excluding murder and Level 1 felonies, is five years for Indiana.

If you or a family member may be affected by a felony, protect your rights, and contact Alvarez Law Office. Our lawyers have a combined experience of over 200 years defending the accused since 1974. When it comes to being charged with a felony, don’t take your chances, you need Alvarez.