Types of Felony Charges

By Shelley Moore
Types of Felony Charges

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Felony crimes are unlawful acts that have been identified as more serious than misdemeanor crimes. They can be punishable by a prison sentence, fines and other measures. Varying degrees of felony offenses indicate the appropriate punishment. Generally, a felony is any offense punishable by at least one year of incarceration.


The two main categories of felony charges are violent and non-violent. Violent felony crimes include murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault (assault with a weapon), rape, sexual assault, arson and robbery, both armed and unarmed. Non-violent felonies include property offenses, drug offenses and white-collar crimes. Property offenses are burglary, larceny, fraud, forgery, certain types of vandalism and receipt of stolen property. White-collar crimes take place in a business or other professional environment where one person intentionally tries to gain financial benefit while causing loss for others. The most common felony charges are drug possession, aggravated assault, arson, burglary, murder and rape.


Within the two main categories of felony charges are degrees of severity which stipulate different levels of punishment. When convicted, the criminal may face a prison sentence, probation, fines, restitution, community service and loss of rights such as the right to vote and to own a weapon. If incarceration is mandated, the sentence is served in a state or federal prison.

Time Frame

Felony charges are usually made within 48 to 72 hours after a person is arrested for a crime. The felony charges may be different than those for which the person was arrested, and initial felony charges also can be changed if more evidence is discovered.


A prosecutor can bring felony charges on her own after examining the police report and evidence. The accused person then has a right to a preliminary trial, in which the prosecutor must prove before a judge there is enough evidence to convict. In many circumstances, the prosecutor will instead enlist a grand jury to decide the felony charges. The prosecutor presents evidence to this group of randomly selected citizens, who then determine whether or not to issue a felony indictment. This method is generally preferred by prosecutors, because less evidence is needed to bring felony charges.


The least serious crimes are classified as petty offenses. These crimes are not punishable by jail time and include acts such as minor traffic offenses, parking violations, and minor infractions of local laws. Punishment usually is a fine. The next level of offense is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors include acts such as public intoxication, disorderly conduct, battery, trespassing and theft under an amount specified by the jurisdiction. Misdemeanor laws vary greatly from state to state. Convictions typically result in a steeper fine than a petty offense or a short-term sentence served in a city or county jail.

About the Author

Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

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