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What Are Felonies? - Definition, Types & Levels

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  • 0:02 Defintion of a Felony
  • 0:34 Types of Felonies
  • 0:58 Levels of Felony
  • 2:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Learn what constitutes a felony crime. Review the definition of this crime and examine the various types of felonies. Analyze the levels of felonies that exist today in the United States.

Definition of a Felony

Have you ever heard the phrase, 'The punishment fits the crime'? Well, with a felony, the punishment is usually quite serious. A felony is a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of over one year. A person can also be sentenced to the death penalty for a felony if the state where one committed the crime has a statute which authorizes the death penalty. Usually, felonies are highly serious crimes. In the United States, felony crimes are the most serious crimes that exist.

Types of Felonies

There are many different types of felony crimes. Some felony crimes include the following:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Burglary
  • Armed robbery
  • Extortion
  • Child pornography
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Larceny
  • Forgery
  • Embezzlement
  • Arson
  • Drug dealing

Levels of Felony

Most states distinguish felonies by degrees or levels. The lower the number is, the more serious the felony. Some states also use a letter system and the lower the letter, the more serious the felony. For example, a class 1 or class A felony is typically reserved for the most severe of crimes, such as murder, rape and arson. The circumstances of these crimes usually include extreme violence and heinous details. As a result, the sentence for these crimes is severe and of the highest level. In states that have the death penalty, a class 1 or class A felony crime will likely have the death penalty as a sentence for such crimes as murder.

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