If you have been charged with a crime you may want to know... Is it a felony or misdemeanor?

If convicted of a felony you will lose many valuable civil rights that may include the right to vote, run for public office, own or possess a firearm.. or even go to Las Vegas...

What is a felony?

Every state has its own laws defining felonies and misdemeanors, often placing them in different classes such as the example below from the State of Virginia.

The United States Government  defines a felony as any crime punishable by more than one year.

18 U.S.C. sec. 921(20) further provides certain exceptions: 

 The term ''crime punishable by imprisonment for a term
    exceeding one year'' does not include -
        (A) any Federal or State offenses pertaining to antitrust
      violations, unfair trade practices, restraints of trade, or other
      similar offenses relating to the regulation of business
      practices, or
        (B) any State offense classified by the laws of the State as a
      misdemeanor and punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years
      or less.
    What constitutes a conviction of such a crime shall be determined
    in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in which the
    proceedings were held.  Any conviction which has been expunged, or
    set aside or for which a person has been pardoned or has had civil
    rights restored shall not be considered a conviction for purposes
    of this chapter, unless such pardon, expungement, or restoration of
    civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship,
    transport, possess, or receive firearms.

The Federal government also classifies its sentences as follows:

Section 3581. Sentence of imprisonment
      (a) In General. - A defendant who has been found guilty of an
    offense may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
      (b) Authorized Terms. - The authorized terms of imprisonment are
        (1) for a Class A felony, the duration of the defendant's life
      or any period of time;
        (2) for a Class B felony, not more than twenty-five years;
        (3) for a Class C felony, not more than twelve years;
        (4) for a Class D felony, not more than six years;
        (5) for a Class E felony, not more than three years;
        (6) for a Class A misdemeanor, not more than one year;
        (7) for a Class B misdemeanor, not more than six months;
        (8) for a Class C misdemeanor, not more than thirty days; and
        (9) for an infraction, not more than five days.

The actual sentence in Federal cases will depend on the the Sentencing Guidelines established by the United States Sentencing Commission. 



Felonies and Misdemeanors in Virginia

 Felonies are classified, for the purposes of punishment and sentencing, into six classes. The authorized punishments for conviction are:

 Subdivision g states that the court shall impose either a sentence of imprisonment together with a fine, or imprisonment only, except when a sentence of death is imposed. However, if the defendant is not a natural person (e.g. a corporation), the court shall impose only a fine. For any felony offense committed on or after January 1, 1995, the court may impose an additional term of not less than six months nor more than three years. Further information is available in the Code of Virginia, 18.2-9 to 18.2-17.

 Misdemeanors are classified, for the purposes of punishment and sentencing, into four classes. The authorized punishments for conviction are: