There are a variety of crimes that can be committed by individuals. Some crimes, such as murder or kidnapping, are considered serious crimes by society. Other crimes, such as speeding or trespassing, are not considered serious. Although all crimes mean a violation of the law, there's a wide range of punishments that can be imposed on a criminal.
The classification of a crime is based on the extent of punishment that can be given for committing it. The punishment is usually based on the seriousness of the crime. States may differ as to the classification of any particular crime. A crime committed in one state may be classified differently than if it was committed in another state.
A felony is considered a serious crime. Most states and the federal government classify a crime that's punishable by more than one year in prison as a felony. Some states consider a felony as any crime that's punishable by any length of time in prison. A felony that's punishable by death is considered a capital crime.
There are many different crimes that are considered felonies in most states. Some common felonies include:
A misdemeanor is considered a less serious crime. Most states and the federal government classify a crime that's punishable by less than one year in prison as a misdemeanor. Some states consider a misdemeanor as any crime that's punishable only by fine or a small length of time in jail. If a misdemeanor is considered a very minor offense, such as jaywalking, the crime may be classified as a petty offense.
There's a wide variety of crimes that are considered misdemeanors in most states. Some common misdemeanors include:
- Public intoxication
- Use of a false ID
Whether a crime is considered a felony or a misdemeanor will many times depend on any aggravating factors. These are factors that make a crime more serious. For example, the theft of a very inexpensive item from a store may be considered a misdemeanor. However, the theft of multiple items that are worth thousands of dollars may be considered a felony.
Crimes against the Person
A crime against the person is a crime that's committed using direct harm or force against the victim. Usually the most serious crimes, such as murder or rape, are crimes against the person. These crimes are many times felonies because of the seriousness of harming another person. However, some lower level crimes, such as harassment or assault without a weapon, may be considered misdemeanors.
Crimes against Property
A crime against property is a crime that's committed by damaging or intruding on the property of the victim. Burglary and arson are two crimes against property that are normally felonies. Criminal mischief, which involves the intentional destruction of property, goes from a misdemeanor to a felony based on the value of the damage. Criminal trespass is usually classified as a misdemeanor.
Theft and Fraud Crimes
There are a wide variety of theft and fraud crimes that involve illegally taking a victim's property. Whether a theft or a fraud crime is a misdemeanor or a felony usually depends on the value of the property stolen and the method used to commit the crime. A fraud crime is a crime in which deception is used to cause another person to suffer financial harm. Robbery, which is the taking of property from another using force, is classified as a felony.
Crimes against Public Order
A crime against public order is a crime that harms the community. Some examples include disorderly conduct, public lewdness, and prostitution. Many crimes against public order are considered misdemeanors. However, if a minor child is a victim, the misdemeanor may be raised to a felony.
Crimes relating to drugs involve manufacture, possession, distribution and sale. Possessing a small amount of illegal drugs will usually be classified as a misdemeanor. However, distributing and selling large amounts of illegal drugs will almost always be classified as a felony.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What type of aggravating factors could turn a misdemeanor vandalism crime into a felony?
- What value amount makes a theft crime be classified as a felony? What if I didn't know the stolen items were worth that much?
- Does the age and education level of the criminal matter when classifying whether a crime is a felony or a misdemeanor? What about the intent of the criminal?