All the states categorize crimes into misdemeanor and felonies. Felonies represents the most serious offenses that are punishable with significant fines and longer sentences. The states have further categorized felonies into classes and some states uses alphabet classes while the others rely on the number ones. However it doesn’t matter if the classes are named using alphabets or numbers always the lower alphabet or the lower number class will have the most serious crimes. For example the State of Kentucky has four felony classes ranging from A to D however the less serious crimes such selling marijuana is categorized in to Class D however the serious felonies such as raping a child etc. falls into the Class A category.
Difference in the Classes
All the felony classes across different states are not same as it is virtually impossible to compare the felony classes of one state to felony classes of the state. This is due to the huge difference in the classification system of felonies across the country. For example in some states the Class 3 felony is a serious crime but at the same time this class is even more serious in some other states. This is because some states like Illinois state which has only four felony classes ranging from class 1 to class 4 however the other states such as the Colorado and Arizona has felony classes ranging from Class 1 to Class 6 so that what’s creates the difference. Even if some states have same number of the felony classes still the crimes categorized in those classes might not have same punishment. For example in the state of North Dakota the armed burglary is punishable up to 10 years but similarly in Virginia it a class 2 felony and the convicted person can end up in prison for life long punishment.
Felonies Vs Misdemeanor
The strict definition of the misdemeanor is the crime punishable up to a year in jail while the definition of a felony is the crime punishable for more than a year in prison. Sometimes the criminal defense attorney can persuade the jury to reduce the felony charges to misdemeanor level however it is only possible if the person has not convicted any crimes before and have not committed a serious felony with nonviolence category. It can also be possible in some states where the same felony is less severe as compared to the other states. The misdemeanor not only doffers in less jail time from the felony but also it is lot more easier to expunge misdemeanor conviction charges from the personal records of convicted person as compared to felony. One other significant difference between the felony and the misdemeanor is the facilities. The facilities in which the convicted person has to serve his sentence. A person convicted of felony will have to serve his sentence in a federal prison while the person who has convicted a misdemeanor will have to serve the sentence in local state jail. The federal facilities are further away from the states and they also have the convicted fellas persons which have committed really serious crimes.
Felony Crimes Classification
In order to assign a sentence for a felony, the state divides felonies into categories which makes it easier to sentence for the felony by grouping together the felonies that have similar severity to them. Some states have different approach to classification some has the hybrid approach while the others rely on crime by crime punishment.
Subcategories: Levels and Classes
In addition to two main categories of crimes such as the felony an misdemeanor the states have further subcategorized these categories. This further sub division of the two major category depends on the seriousness of the crime committed by the person. Each one of the sub category has its own sentences and sentence range.
For Example the state of Missouri has four felony classes including Class A, Class B, Class C and Class D however it has three misdemeanor classes such as Class A, B and C crimes. In Missouri every statute defines the crime by its class and if you know the classes and levels of felonies and or misdemeanors then you can find out the set of sentences for each of the class.
Some states do not use the alphabets for defining there subcategories however they rely on the numbers and they may refer to subcategories as levels instead of classes such as level 1 and Level 2 etc. however in some cases , some states uses “State jail felonies” like descriptive phrases which is used in the state of Texas.
Some states however do not sub categorized their felonies and misdemeanor and there each and every crime has its own punishment. These crime by crime sentences are described in each statute which defines the crime itself. Such as in the state of Massachusetts the sentence for each misdemeanor and felony is defined in the crime’s statute.
A Hybrid Approach
Some states of the United States of America uses the hybrid approach. They have sub categorized the felonies and misdemeanors in to classes and levels and also they have some crimes that are not classified into any category and thus their sentences are written in the statute which defines the crime itself. Such as in State of Pennsylvania the felonies are either first, second or third degree or unclassified ones. If you were to learn about the first degree felonies you need to study the statue that defines all the first degree felonies and you will learn the sentence range for such felonies but if you want to learn about the crimes which are in unclassified category then you will have to refer to the statute that defines the crime itself and you will learn about the sentence of that particular crime.
The Kansas Grid
Even though the states uses the sub categories and hybrid approach to these felonies however the state of Kansas has really different approach when it comes to sentence a convicted person for the crime. It is a unique sentencing scheme called the Kansas grid instead of levels or classes or crime by crime designation. The complicated Kansas grid takes into account the severity of the particular crime and also the criminal history of the convicted person. It means that if the crime didn’t not involve atrocious facts and if it is committed by the first time offender then the sentences will be less severe as compared to the crime that is convicted by a repeat offender and is convicted in a brutal way.
Congress has adopted a system that is similar to the Kansas grid for the federal felonies. This include the designation of each felony to the one of the 43 offense levels. There are 6 “criminal history categories” in which the each defendant is placed. There is a point where these two separate categories meet each other and that is when the jury is assigning a sentence range for the conviction then the jury will consider both the categories and then will give a verdict on the case. The jury will decide on the bases of the severity of the crime on the basis of the 42 offense levels and also will take into consideration the criminal history of the defendant.