A Class A felony is usually a quite serious crime. Many jurisdictions separate crimes into two different categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are considered the most serious types of offenses, while misdemeanors, which carry lighter penalties, are considered not as bad. Some places have classes of felonies, and each class is given a letter designation. In these cases, Class A is considered the worst of the felonies.
In most places, Class A felonies are not only the most serious types of crimes, but they also carry the most serious penalties. Since this designation is typically reserved for such crimes as murder and rape, punishments are meant to match the seriousness of the crime. For example, some people are given a life sentence in prison, often without possibility of parole, after being convicted of such a crime. Some people who are convicted of such crimes may even receive the death penalty.
The penalty a person receives after being convicted of a Class A felony depends on such factors as the particular crime, the typical penalties given in the jurisdiction, and the judge on the case. In a place that does not currently execute criminals, an individual may be given life in prison for even the most heinous crimes. In another place, however, an individual who is guilty of the same type of crime may be required to perform hard laboring during his sentence. He may, for example, spend much of his imprisonment working on public roads or the jurisdiction’s bridges.
Many jurisdictions set minimum sentences for those convicted of Class A felonies. In some places, for example, a person who is convicted faces at least 10 years in prison but not more than 99 years in a single sentence. Hate crimes may carry minimum sentences of 15 years or more in some places. Using a gun or other deadly weapon during a felony may result in a minimum of 20 years of imprisonment. The same 20-year penalty may apply for sexual crimes in which the convicted person harmed a child; often, higher sentences are given for repeat offenses and particularly heinous acts.
Repeat offenders are often given stiffer penalties than those without prior records. For example, a jurisdiction may impose higher minimum sentences on criminals with a prior felony conviction. Some jurisdictions impose 99-year minimum sentences for those who have two or more prior felony convictions. In other places, however, an individual who is convicted of a Class A felony is automatically given life in prison if he also has a prior record of committing a similarly serious crime.