What is a Felony Charge?

Jan Hill

A felony charge is an accusation levied against a person who is believed to have committed a serious violation of a public law. Crimes, or illegal acts, may be broken down into three basic categories: petty offenses, misdemeanors and felonies. A felony charge may result from acts such as murder, rape or kidnapping. Felonies are typically categorized according to their degree of severity. A convicted felon will sometimes have more restrictions placed upon his rights than someone who has been charged and found guilty of a lesser crime.

Kidnapping is considered a class C felony.
Kidnapping is considered a class C felony.

If a government decides to file charges against the suspected perpetrator of a crime and they are proven guilty, punishment is typically imposed. Petty offenses are minor infractions that do not warrant jail time. Instead, those who commit petty offenses such as driving above the speed limit or parking in a restricted zone will usually receive a ticket and be required to pay a fine. Misdemeanors are more serious than petty offenses, but far less grave than felonies. Those who are found guilty of a misdemeanor, such as simple assault or driving without a license, may be punished by a fine and up to one year in a local jail.

Conviction of a felony often results in a prison sentence.
Conviction of a felony often results in a prison sentence.

Felonies are the most serious types of crimes, and the punishment is equally severe. A person found guilty of a felony charge may be sentenced to a year or more in a local or national prison. Those who are found guilty of capital offenses such as murder may receive life in prison or a sentence of death. Different areas usually have different punishments for those facing a felony charge. Prison sentences are usually given at the discretion of the court and guided by the applicable laws of a certain area.

Individuals who have been charged with a felony will face arrest.
Individuals who have been charged with a felony will face arrest.

Felony charges can range from burglary and drug crimes to murder. In the United States, there are roughly six classes that most felonies fall into, with a Class 1 being the most serious. A Class 1 felony may call for a minimum sentence of life in prison and a maximum sentence of death. A Class 6 felony might have a minimum sentence of one year in prison. Some jurisdictions classify felonies A, B, and C, with a Class A felony being the most severe. Most felonies come with relatively high fines, sometimes $10,000 US Dollars (USD) or more.

Some court jurisdictions distinguish between violent and nonviolent felony offenders.
Some court jurisdictions distinguish between violent and nonviolent felony offenders.

Some convicted felons lose their citizenship rights and may be deported if they are not legal residents of the country where the felony charge was incurred. In some areas, convicted felons may not be able to vote, become attorneys or teachers or own a firearm. Employers may have the legal right to inquire about a prospective employee's felony conviction record, which can make it difficult for a convicted felon to find employment.

Serious felonies may be punishable by death.
Serious felonies may be punishable by death.

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Discussion Comments


@Rondocurl -- your friend might be in a position to petition he court to have his record expunged. An attorney can tell him whether he is able to do that or not, but it is often a fairly inexpensive process that will remove a conviction completely under certain circumstances. If it was a first offense that occurred quite some time ago and your friend has done his time, he may be eligible.

Most lawyers will offer a free consultation, so that option may be worth exploring.


Your friend has many options Rundocuri. Tell him he should reach out to others and spread the word that his is looking for a job. Next, he needs to put together a resume that focuses on the positive things he has done in his life. Finally, he should put efforts into doing something positive, like volunteering for a charitable organization. Many people with felonies have found paying jobs after showcasing their skills and work ethics through volunteering for worthy causes.


Also, in many states, a crime that would be a misdemeanor can be elevated to a felony if it is severe enough or if the accused engages in a prohibited conduct often enough.

For example, a battery is typically a misdemeanor. However, delivering someone a brutal beating can elevate that crime to a felony.

Here's another example -- driving while intoxicated (DWI). A DWI is generally a misdemeanor, but repeat offenses can elevate it to felony status. In my state, that fourth DWI is a felony and those found guilty of it will almost always get to spend some time in the state pen.


What steps should someone with a felony charge take to finding employment after he serves his time and returns to society? I have a friend who has a felony battery charge, and he is having a hard time finding a job. I hate to see him get more discouraged and give up on his search.

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