What Is the Highest Class Felony?

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States categorize felonies in various ways. In some states, felonies may be classified with letters, and in other states, the levels of felonies are designated with numbers. A class A felony and a level 1 felony are considered the highest class – or worst felony – and carry the most severe punishments. Criminal codes at both the state and the federal levels categorize felony crimes by seriousness, with the first class or level being the most severe. Some states do not have a classification system, and instead set out penalties based on the statute that defines the particular crime.

Murder and Kidnapping Typically the Highest Class

Most states categorize murder and kidnapping as class A or level 1 felonies, although the types of crimes that fall into the various categories vary by state. Non-violent crimes may also fall into the highest category of felonies, such as certain drug-related crimes. Other severe crimes that may qualify as class A, level 1 or carrying the severest penalties are rape, involuntary servitude of minors and other offenses considered "heinous."

Penalties for the Highest Class Crimes

In general, the highest class felonies carry stiff monetary fines, such as $100,000. They also carry the longest prison sentences – anywhere between 10 years and life imprisonment. Crimes involving minors, sexual assault or repeat offenses can result in additional penalties for the highest-class felony defendant. A state or jurisdiction that allows the death penalty may impose it on class A or level 1 felony offenders. In some states, such felonies may get mandatory life imprisonment if the offender is on his second Class A or level 1 felony.

Conviction for the highest class felonies can also result in civil penalties. These often include the loss of voting rights, the right to bear arms, child custody and child visitation rights. Because each state treats crimes and their penalties distinctly, the highest class felony in one state may be considered a lower-class or lower-level felony in another. and carry a less severe punishment.

States Using Class A, Level 1 to Categorize

The following states use class A or level 1 to distinguish the highest or most severe felony crimes: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin.

States that do not categorize as such, but instead classify by crime, include California, D.C., Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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