A felony is the most serious type of crime a person can commit in America. It is much more serious than a misdemeanor and almost always carries severe fines or time spent in prison. Even though all felonies are serious crimes, within the category of "felonies" there are varying levels with the worst crimes being the highest class of felony.
Felonies are graded by "class." The higher the class, the worse the crime. Different states have different categorizations for their felonies with a varying number of levels. The specific crimes that are assigned to each class also vary from state to state. Kidnapping is a higher level crime in some states as opposed to others while states such as Arizona only classify murder at the highest level.
The various levels of felony classes and their designations vary from state to state. Some states use numbers to classify felonies while others, such as Wisconsin, use letters. In both instances, the intensity lowers as the letter or number ascends. Class 1 is the same as class A with both being the highest class. Class 2 is equivalent to class B, and class 3 would be considered class C in another state. All states have at least three classes, but some have more. Arizona has six total classes of felonies.
Only severe crimes are considered class 1 -- or A -- felonies. In all states, murder is considered a felony of the highest degree. First degree, or premeditated, murder is always a class 1 felony. Second degree murder is also considered class 1 in some states, but not in all. Felony murder, a murder committed during the perpetration of another felony, is also a potential class 1 felony. Some states also classify kidnapping or violent drug-related crimes as class 1.
Class 1 or class A felonies carry the harshest penalties of all felonies. A criminal is likely to spend many years in jail -- perhaps even their natural lifetime -- if found guilty of committing a class 1 felony. These types of perpetrators may also be eligible for the death penalty, depending on the specifics of the crime and the state in which the crime was committed. As of 2011, 34 states still allow the death penalty.