14 of the Most Common Felonies
Committing a felony crime can put a black mark on your record that could potentially last a lifetime. Unfortunately, as serious as a felony crime is, they are widespread, and often the guilty party has no idea that they are committing a felony. So, to help sort it all out, below is a list of 14 of the most common felonies along with the punishments they bring.
Some felony crimes are obvious to identify, while others you may not have realized are classified as felonies rather than misdemeanors. There is a massive difference in the punishments for a misdemeanor compared to a felony. For example, a misdemeanor comes with a maximum of one year in prison. Perpetrating a felony can often lead to federal imprisonment with considerable jail time. If you’re fortunate enough to have a quality lawyer, though, a felony could be reduced to a misdemeanor resulting in a fine rather than jail time.
1. Drug Abuse Crimes
Being found guilty of a felony drug charge usually results in a prison sentence of longer than a year, as well as a hefty fine. When differentiating a felony drug crime with a misdemeanor drug crime, the answers to the following questions will lead you to the answer:
- What quantity of drugs?
- What kind of drugs?
- Were the drugs being trafficked, sold, or distributed?
If you are found in possession of a small amount of a drug, you will likely not face a felony charge. However, if found with a large quantity of an illegal substance, or even a small quantity of a harder drug, a felony charge is in play.
The severity of the drug in question is classified under a “schedule.” A Schedule I drug is deemed to be highly dangerous with little medical potential and calls for the harshest penalties, including felony charges. Conversely, a Schedule V drug is seen as the least menacing, and possession is likely to result in a misdemeanor.
The punishment for first-time drug charges will typically range from one to three years in jail and a fine that can range from as little as $500 to as much as a few thousand dollars. Someone who is being charged for a drug crime they’ve already committed in the past can face up to 15 years in jail and equally exponential fines.
Committing arson means willfully destroying someone’s personal property by lighting it on fire. Generally, when you think of arson, you think of arson on someone’s home. However, the threshold for arson is a piece of personal property worth a minimum of $150. The worst form of arson is aggravated arson, which is when the perpetrator is aware of people inside the building.
The larger the property, the larger the punishment for arson, and each state has different laws for how the sentences are classified. In Illinois, for example, arson that is not committed to a residential home or a house of worship is considered a Class 2 Felony, which results in three to seven years of jail time. A Class 1 arson felony that is committed at someone’s home or a house of worship can result in a four to 15-year sentence. Aggravated arson is considered a Class X felony, which comes with a mandatory six to 30-year sentence, which can go as high as 60 years in prison.
3. Aggravated Assault
Assault, on its own, is often considered a misdemeanor. But aggravated assault is a felony charge. The differentiator for aggravated assault is causing severe bodily damage or an attack that is accompanied by a death threat.
The punishment for aggravated assault varies widely depending on the state and the severity of the crime. Aggravated assault can result in as little as one year in prison or as much as 20 years in prison.
4. Disorderly Conduct
Most often, disorderly conduct results in a misdemeanor charge. However, there are cases where disorderly conduct can be escalated to a felony. An example of a felony form of disorderly conduct is falsely reporting a fire.
State laws vary widely in what is considered disorderly conduct and the appropriate punishments. For a felony charge, the perpetrator can expect up to a year, or even longer in jail along with fines that can top $1000.
5. Supplying Alcohol to Minors
While typically, providing alcohol to minors is a misdemeanor offense, there are times when it can result in severe felony charges. For example, a felony occurs if serious injury or death occurs as a result of supplying alcohol to minors. The punishment for this type of crime is a jail sentence of one year or more, and a significant fine that can range up to tens of thousands of dollars.
6. Violent Crimes
A violent crime involves one person acting against another, and it doesn’t always have to include physical violence. For example, if you threaten someone with force while committing a crime, that is considered a violent crime. Other types of violent crimes range from simple battery, such as a fistfight, to homicide, manslaughter, and rape. For the worst of these crimes, the punishment is a significant amount of jail time, or death, in addition to massive fines.
Battery on its own is considered a misdemeanor, but aggravated battery is a felony. Battery is also different from assault, although they may seem to be the same thing. Assault is a threat, or an attempt at battery, while battery is the physical action. Aggravated battery is when someone causes significant bodily harm or uses a deadly weapon on another person.
The punishments for aggravated battery will vary depending on many different factors. Aggravated battery is not always a felony, as it depends on the state, the severity of the crime, and the history of the perpetrator. In many states, committing aggravated battery against the elderly or a police officer will result in a much stiffer punishment.
Burglary is when someone illegally enters a building with the intent of committing a crime. Typically when people think about burglary, it’s with the plan to steal something, but burglary can be determined by illegally entering a building with the intent to commit any felony. It doesn’t matter if the person at the last second decides not to steal an item or commit a felony within. As long as the person illegally entered and had intent, it is considered burglary.
The punishment for committing burglary will range broadly depending on the state and the specific circumstances of the crime. If intent cannot be proven, then the offense will be classified as trespassing rather than burglary. But as long as the crime is burglary, it is considered a felony. The punishments for such a crime can range from three to seven years in jail, to 15 years or more of imprisonment.
The difference between robbery and burglary is the setting where the crime takes place. While burglary involves illegally entering a building, robbery is when something is stolen directly from another person using physical force or intimidation.
The main qualifier for robbery is that the victim of the robbery is nearby. For example, if someone were to steal a basketball off of a person’s driveway while walking down the sidewalk, that would be considered theft and not robbery. Or, if a person were to break into a garage and steal a bike, that would be regarded as burglary, not robbery.
An example of a robbery in which the perpetrator enters someone’s home would be home-invasion robbery. In this example, the homeowner is present for the robbery and has a valuable item stolen using force or the threat of violence.
In almost every case, robbery is considered a felony. The punishment for robbery depends on the severity of the classification in each state. Many states will qualify different forms of robbery using first degree, second degree, and aggravated robbery. No matter the classification, those convicted of robbery can expect at least one year of jail time and as much as 20 years or more for the most severe forms of robbery.
The broad definition of vandalism is willfully causing physical damage to someone else’s property. There are many different forms of vandalism, and some are classified as misdemeanors, while others are serious felonies. Misdemeanor offenses are punished with penalties of up to a year in jail with fines tacked on. But vandalism that results in severe destruction of a valuable piece of property is considered a felony crime.
The penalties for vandalism are unique as they encompass many different aspects.
- Pay Fines—Fines will vary depending on the level of charges, prior history of the perpetrator, and state law.
- Restitution to the Owner—In addition to fines, restitution means the perpetrator must pay back the owner of the property for the value of the damage caused.
- Jail Time—Jail sentences may range from a few days to a few years, depending on the context of the crime.
- Community Service Hours—A court will often assign community service hours as part of the punishment for both minor and major vandalism crimes.
- Probation—If the crime is minor, being put on probation may be the only punishment. However, with felony vandalism, probation may be added on top of the rest of the sentences.
10. Weapons Crimes
Weapons crimes and the laws governing their punishments are very state-specific. But there are two common ways to classify weapons crimes: possession of a prohibited weapon, and the use of a weapon.
Any time someone commits a crime and has a weapon with them, that crime will be escalated up and is usually referred to as an aggravated offense. Although the severity of the punishment will vary by state, possessing a gun while committing a crime will almost always result in a felony charge.
Possession of a prohibited weapon can also be a felony if you have previously been convicted of a felony. Or, possession of a prohibited weapon can become a felony if you were previously convicted of the same crime.
Fraud is when someone commits a deception by misrepresenting facts and receives something of value as a result. A common form of fraud is tax fraud, which involves falsifying forms to pay fewer taxes. Fraud is also one of the many white-collar crimes that are committed in the business world.
Common types of fraud include:
- Tax fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Identity theft
- Ponzi schemes
- Telemarketing fraud
- Employee fraud
- Mail fraud
- Wire fraud
The penalties for fraud will vary depending on the amount of money involved, and the victim of the crime. Regardless of the severity, fraud is a felony, and the punishment involved will typically range from as little as six months to as much as 15 years or more in jail.
12. Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a crime that involves abuse among members of the same household. Domestic violence can vary by state but usually refers to violence between a husband and wife, a parent and their child, a boyfriend and girlfriend, or between roommates.
The act of domestic violence is an abhorrent crime, but it can be classified as both a felony and a misdemeanor. Acts of domestic violence that can be classified as misdemeanors include verbal abuse, two adults fighting with each other, or threats of violence.
Domestic violence is considered a felony in the following situations:
- Abuse of a minor.
- Violence with a deadly weapon.
- Sexual abuse.
- Battery that results in acute bodily injuries or death.
The punishment for domestic violence will, of course, be much more severe for a felony conviction. In California, for example, a felony charge means going to state prison, rather than a county jail and for a much longer sentence of two to four years.
13. Grand Theft Auto
Grand theft auto is the fancy way of describing stealing a car. Grand theft auto can be classified as both a felony and a misdemeanor in some states. But grand theft auto is always a felony if the intent of the perpetrator was not to return the car. It also does not matter what the value of the vehicle is, as there is no such thing as petty grand theft auto. Although, in some states, stealing a high-priced luxury vehicle will result in additional punishment.
The typical punishment for felony grand theft auto will range from one to three years in prison, in addition to restitution paid to the car owner.
14. Counterfeiting and Forgery
While most crimes vary by state considering what constitutes a felony and what constitutes a misdemeanor, forgery is considered a felony across all 50 states. Forgery first and foremost involves writing, and the writing must be of legal substance to be considered forgery. To be regarded as a legal substance, the document must, in some way, affect a person’s legal rights.
The following qualification of forgery is that a person has either made, used, altered, or possessed this form of false writing. The last requirement is the intent to defraud. A simple example of forgery is forging someone else’s signature on a legal document.
Common types of forgery prohibited by federal law include:
- Identity theft.
- Forging immigration
- Forging military discharge documents.
- Counterfeiting money.
Forgery becomes counterfeiting most commonly when it involves currency. Counterfeiting can be a crime when knowingly distributing counterfeit money or by possessing the tools used to create counterfeit money. Counterfeiting can also involve non-monetary fraud, such as forging documents from a federal court, forging a federal agency’s seal, or forging postal stamps.
The penalties for counterfeiting are severe. Federal law would allow for up to 25 years in jail and fines for $250,000 or more if the financial gain was by more than just the defendant. When this occurs, fines can be doubled.
Forgery, while considered a felony in all 50 states, can also be seen as a misdemeanor depending on the action taking place. For a misdemeanor, a state may sentence the defendant to restitution, fines, and probation, in addition to potentially one year in jail. When felony charges are passed down, perpetrators can expect multiple years in prison and fines ranging up to $125,000 depending on the state and the charge.
Bottom Line on Common Felonies
As you can see, there is a vast array of crimes that can be considered a felony. The confusing part is that many of these crimes can also be considered misdemeanors, and that distinction often is determined by which jurisdiction the crime was committed. Also, some crimes that may be considered misdemeanors by first-time offenders are escalated up to felonies if committed more than once by the same perpetrator.
For further clarification on what is considered a felony and the punishments associated with that crime, refer to your home state’s laws. Some crimes, such as counterfeiting and forgery, are legislated at the federal level. However, the vast majority of other felonies and their punishments are determined by the individual states.