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A felony, in many common law legal systems, is the term for a "very serious" crime; misdemeanors are considered to be less serious. Crimes which are commonly considered to be felonies include: aggravated assault, arson, burglary, murder, and rape. Those who are convicted of a felony are known as felons. Originally, felonies were crimes for which the punishment was either death or forfeiture of property. Nowadays, felons can receive punishments which range in severity; from probation, to imprisonment, to execution. Felons often receive addition punishments such as the loss of voting rights, exclusion from certain lines of work, and loss of firearm rights (if they ever had any to begin with). In addition, some states consider a felony conviction to be grounds for an uncontested divorce.

The distinction between a felony and misdemeanour has been abolished by some common law jurisdictions (e.g. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic., Australia) s. 332B(1), Crimes Act 1900 (NSW., Australia) s. 580E(1)); other jurisdictions maintain the distinction, notably those of the US. Those jurisdictions which have abolished the distinction generally adopt some other classification, e.g. in New South Wales, Australia, the crimes are divided into summary offences and indictable offences. Many US jurisdictions, which maintain the distinction between a felony and a misdemeanour, divide felonies into classes, e.g. class A felony, class B felony, etc.

The United States

In many jurisdictions of the US, a felony is any offence carrying a potential penalty of more than one year in prison. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, a felony is any offence which carries any prison time. Unlike state convictions, persons convicted of felonies in a United States Federal Court can not have their record expunged.