State Felony Laws
When it comes to the justice system in the United States, felony crimes are considered the more serious of criminal offenses. Punishment for felony crimes start at a minimum of one year in jail. Anything sentence less than that is considered to be a misdemeanor crime. You can be charged with either a felony or misdemeanor for the same crime.
Often, prosecutors will charge a suspect with the more serious felony in the hopes of coming to a plea bargain agreement to a lesser misdemeanor charge and avoid a trial. However, if the crime that was committed involved serious injury to another person or costly damages to property the suspect will be charged with the felony.
There was a time when the participants in a felony crime where divided up into degrees. This meant that the person who committed the actual crime was charged with the first degree felony but a person who just helped them was charged with a second degree felony. Those distinctions are no longer applied in the United States justice system. Instead it falls to the legislature of each state to determine their own felony distinctions.
Types of Felony Crimes
The range of crimes classified as felonies are just what you would expect them to be. These include arson, vandalism, aggravated assault, burglary, grand theft, illegal drug possession or dealing, rape, murder or robbery. Every state has determined the level of seriousness attached to a specific felony crime committed within their borders. Some states make the distinctions as Class A felony, Class B felony, etc. Other states assign degrees as in 1st Degree felony, 2nd Degree felony, etc.
Each of those different types of felony charges come with their own sets of minimum sentencing and/or fines. Again, these distinctions can be used in plea bargain arrangements. A person could be charged with a Class A felony but plea down to the lesser Class B charge and receive a smaller amount of jail time.
There are several common law restrictions attached to a person who has been convicted of a felony crime. These restrictions apply across the country. A felon is not allowed to own any kind of firearm, they can't vote, they can't serve on a jury or run for elected office. And if the felon is not a citizen they can be deported after serving their punishment. A person convicted of a felony can also be named in an uncontested divorce in several states. Keep in mind that even if a felon has served their time and paid their fine, they are still considered a felon in the eyes of the state and federal government unless they receive a pardon from the governor or expungement of their record.
In certain cases, a convicted felon who has served out their punishment can seek an expungement of their record. If their application is approved by the court, their felony conviction could be expunged which means removed from the public record. Expungement is only applied to state crimes. Federal crimes don't allow for expungement and can only be cleared with a Presidential pardon.