Of the possible felonies you can be charged with, a third-degree felony is the least serious. However, being convicted of a so-called "F3" is still a life-changing event. While penalties vary by state, a third-degree felony can be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Degrees of Crime
The United States divides criminal offenses into misdemeanors and felonies, with felonies as the more serious offense. Most states further divide felonies into three or four degrees depending on the seriousness of the offence. A first degree felony includes the crimes of kidnapping, rape and arson, and is more serious than a felony of the third or fourth degree. Murder and aggravated murder are generally considered "unclassified" felonies with a potential penalty of death or life in prison without parole.
Third Degree Felony Examples
While a third-degree felony is less serious than a first-degree felony, it still includes some serious violent and non-violent crimes. Assault and battery, transmission of pornography, driving under the influence, bribery, arson, fraud, promoting the prostitution of a minor, elder abuse and various drug possession offenses typically fall into the F3 category. The exact list varies by state.
Read More: 1st Degree Felony vs 3rd Degree Felony
Penalties for Felonies of the Third Degree
Each degree of felony carries increasing penalties according to the state's criminal codes. Generally, a third-degree felony faces up to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines; again, this varies by state. Aside from a prison sentence, a convicted felon may be ordered to make monetary amends to the victim or her family, known as restitution. Restitution is intended to cover the cost of medical expenses, property damage and other losses suffered during the commission of the crime and can run to many thousands of dollars.
Determining the Sentence
A judge decides the sentence for a third-degree felony crime in accordance with state codes. Generally, the more serious the offense and the longer the criminal record, the longer the recommended prison sentence. Most judges have the discretion to deviate from sentencing guidelines if there are mitigating or aggravating circumstances. However, in some states, certain felony crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences. This means a judge cannot lower the sentence even if there are mitigating factors.
The F1 to F4 classification of felonies applies to state felonies. Federal felonies are classified by the letters A to E, with a class a felony as the most serious. Federal felonies may include such crimes as bank fraud, embezzlement and forgery. Penalties range from life in prison for a Class A felony to a one-year jail term for a felon convicted in Class E.
Assault and battery, transmission of pornography, driving under the influence, bribery, arson, fraud, promoting the prostitution of a minor, elder abuse and various drug possession offenses are typically classified as third-degree felonies. The exact list varies by state.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.