Capital felonies are felonies for which the defendant, if convicted, can be legally sentenced to suffer the death penalty. In the United States, murder is the most common capital felony. However, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, in some states, persons convicted of sexual assault on a minor can be sentenced to death. Also, under federal law, espionage, treason and trafficking in large amounts of drugs are all capital felonies, although, as of 2010, no one is currently on death row for them. The list of non capital felonies far outnumbers that of capital felonies, according to statistics reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Posession of a Controlled Substance
According to the FBI, this is the most common felony in the United States. While possession of illegal drugs is only a misdemeanor in some areas, in most cases its a felony.
Distribution of a Controlled Substance
The punishment for distribution of a controlled substance, which refers to the sale of illegal drugs, is generally more severe than for simple possession and is nearly always a felony.
Property crimes refer to crimes involving the illegal theft or destruction of private property, including burglary, vandalism and arson. Theft crimes that involve violence, such as robbery or home invasion, are classified separately.
Crimes Involving Children
There are a number of felonies that cover the mistreatment of children. These include the infliction of harm on children, such as through assault or other physical abuse, or, in the case of parents or caregivers, through neglect.
There are a number of different types of assault for which a person can be charged, most of which are categorized according to the attack's severity and context.
Although first-degree murder--meaning murder in which the killing is premeditated--is a capital crime, lesser forms of murder are usually non capital crimes. Negligent homicide and manslaughter are both non capital felonies.
The intentional forgery of a document or the counterfeiting of currency is almost always considered a felony. However, forgery is generally a state crime, the production of counterfeit money is a federal crime.
When a person deceives another person for his own personal gain--particularly his financial gain--this is considered fraud. According to the FBI, most types of fraud are considered felonies, rather than misdemeanors.
Although some types of sex crimes involving children are considered capital crimes, most sex crimes, such as rape, exhibitionism, sexual assault and pimping, are only non capital felonies.
Read More: What Type of Crimes Are Third-Degree Felonies?
State laws on the possession of firearms vary greatly. However, all restrict ownership of certain types of firearms to certain parties. Most, such as unlicensed possession of a firearm, are considered felonies.
Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.