Most people are aware that word felony refers to a serious crime. However, many people believe that the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is whether there was violence involved in the crime. That is not true. While many violent crimes are felonies, most felonies are not violent crimes. Moreover, most violent crimes are not classified as felonies. These beliefs reflect a major misconception about criminal law, which is that people erroneously believe that the nature of the crime determines whether it is designated a misdemeanor or a felony. Instead, what determines the characterization of the crime is the potential sentence for that level of charge. If the sentence is incarceration of a year or more and the person will be incarcerated in a prison rather than a jail, then the offense is a felony. (Some states may have “state jail felonies,” which are felony level offenses that carry sentences of up to a year, to be served in a state jail facility).
Felonies have always included crimes that society deems to be particularly egregious such as murder, rape, kidnapping, burglary, and robbery. The development of the criminal justice system has seen the development of additional felonies: child sexual abuse, arson, human trafficking, parental kidnapping, embezzlement and other white-collar crimes, drunk driving/DUI offenses, and many internet crimes are now considered felony offenses.
What is important to realize is that many defendants initially charged with a felony offense are convicted of lesser-included offenses, instead. These lesser-included offenses may be lower-level felonies or misdemeanor offenses. However, the level of the offense of conviction is not necessarily indicative of the severity of the actual offense committed; finding out greater detail about any offense committed, including the initial charge and the crime of conviction can help provide additional.
Felonies, and other criminal records, may be found in BeenVerified background reports.