In the American criminal justice system, criminal offenses, and other violations of the law, are classified according to their severity as either a felony or a misdemeanor offense. Punishments, and/or fines, are determined by the their specific category. These classifications exist at both the federal level and the state level, with some variation between states.
Generally, misdemeanors are considered less serious offenses, such as traffic violations, disorderly conduct and vandalism, which commonly involve fines and rarely results in long-term incarceration.
Felonies, on the other hand, are considered much more serious offenses than misdemeanors, and are generally further classified into specific categories usually called classes. These classes are based on their type and severity.
The most severe felony crimes, notably something like premeditated murder, are classified in the highest and most serious class, which is usually called class A, or first-degree felony. Below this comes either class B, or second-degree felony, which usually includes things like arson, manslaughter, or robbery.
Class C (or third-degree) felonies are the lowest and least severe category, which usually includes non-violent, but still serious criminal offenses. Some of these offences are burglary, or theft of property, worth less than a few thousand dollars. Additionally, various drug offenses are frequently considered felonies, particularly when they involve manufacture, sale, or distribution of a controlled substance. Possession of drugs can also lead to a Class C felony.
Furthermore, the actual felony degree for many drug offenses is often determined by the individual circumstances of each particular case.
Other unique felony classifications also exist in many states, which pertain only to certain extraordinary, or especially heinous crimes. These crimes are generally classified as capital or life felonies, because they are considered acts punishable by either life in prison or the death penalty.
As you can see, the American criminal justice system can be extremely complex and difficult to effectively understand, or navigate, without the assistance of a professional attorney. This is especially true if you are unfortunate enough to be facing one or more felony charges of any degree for any kind of criminal allegation.
Even though knowing the broad legal definitions and categories is beneficial for any individual, regardless of their legal situation, it is important to understand that, in practice, the actual criminal justice system is an elaborate maze full of technicalities and sophisticated terminology. This maze requires the skills of a competent attorney to effectively negotiate, such as PLM Attorneys. Contact us today.