Felonies & Misdemeanors
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More serious than a misdemeanor, which does not allow for a prison sentence, a felony is a class of crime that may be punishable by a sentence of more than one year in state prison. The sentence for a felony varies greatly depending on the severity of the crime, but because felonies account for the most serious crimes, including rape and murder, a life sentence may also be merited. Minor punishments, such as fines, probation, counseling or time spent in county jail or a work furlough program, may also be granted.
The same crime can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the degree. Petty larceny, for example, is considered a misdemeanor if the dollar amount of the stolen goods is less than a certain number; if the cost exceeds that number, the crime is considered a felony. Different states have different laws about the severity and punishments of felonies.
Felony crimes range from burglary to murder. Grand theft, kidnapping and some drug offenses are also types of felonies. There are six classes of felony crimes, with Class 1 being the most serious. A Class 1 felony results in a minimum life sentence and a maximum death sentence. A Class 6 felony results in a minimum sentence of one year. Fines of $10,000 usually accompany felony sentences.