It is common for states to have different classifications of felony offenses. They do this to ensure the sentencing guidelines are appropriate. There is some sort of division like this in all states, as a classification, a sentence based on the actual crime itself, or a hybrid approach.
Different Types of Crimes
There are three main types of crime, which are, in order of least to most serious: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions usually only result in warnings and, sometimes, a fine. Misdemeanors and felonies have more serious consequences, but there are some significant differences between them as well, such as:
- That a misdemeanor leads to jail sentences, whereas felonies lead to incarceration in a state prison.
- That a misdemeanor leads to no more than one year in jail in most states, whereas felonies lead to much longer sentences, including life and, in some states, the death penalty.
- That the consequences of a misdemeanor after conviction are far less serious. Felony convicts find it more difficult to find housing and work, can no longer hold certain licensed professions, often can’t serve on a jury or lose the right to vote, and generally lose the right to bear arms.
Felony Crime Classifications – Levels or Classes
It is quite common for states to use a system of subcategories to indicate the seriousness of the felony. Delaware, for instance, has Class A, B, C, D, E, F, or G felonies. Each of those classes has its own statute, which denotes the appropriate sentence for the class, as well as the statute of limitations. Other states do not use classes but use levels or degrees instead. For instance, Arizona uses levels 1 through 6, and Ohio uses 1st to 5th degree. Then, there are states that use descriptive levels.
Felony Crimes – No Subcategories
There are a few states where no subcategories are used. They look at each case on an individual level, considering its crime. An example of this is found in Massachusetts, where each possible crime has its own statute, including sentencing guidelines and statute of limitations. The same is seen in California, where the statute lists the possible sentence range for each offense.
Felony Crimes – A Hybrid Approach
It is also possible for states to use a hybrid approach, meaning they do use subcategories and assign them to the majority of crimes, but taking exception to some “unclassified” offenses, where the statute lists the consequences for each offense. An example is Colorado, which has felony levels 1 through 6, as well as unclassified offenses. In such states, the point of reference is usually the level associated with a crime, which is then cross-referenced to the statute of the individual crime if it exists.
Felony Crimes – The Kansas Grid
Kansas has set itself apart by developing a scheme completely unique to the rest of the state. They do not have levels, classes, or statutes by crime. Rather, they use a highly complex grid that looks at how severe a crime was, including the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, and the defendant’s criminal history. Hence, if a crime with no serious aggravating circumstances committed by a first time offender would be charged the least, and a crime involving many heinous facts committed by a repeat offender would carry the heaviest sentence, even if the crimes are the same.
Federal Felony Crimes
The system used by U.S. Congress for felony offenses is very similar to the Kansas grid. There are 43 different “offense levels” and six categories of “criminal history”. The intersection of those two points is the sentence range that a convicted person has to face. Possible sentences are listed in the federal sentencing guidelines. However, these are guidelines only, and judges have a great degree of discretion in terms of what to apply.
List of Different Felony Classifications by State
Alabama – Class A, B, or C
Alaska – Class A, B, or C
Arizona – Level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6
Arkansas – Class Y, A, B, C, or D
California – By crime
Colorado – Level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or unclassified
Connecticut – Class A, B, C, or D; or unclassified (by crime); different sentencing laws apply for crimes committed before July 1, 1981
Delaware – Class A, B, C, D, E, F, or G
D.C. – By crime
Florida – Capital or life felonies; or felonies of the first, second, or third degree
Georgia – By crime
Hawaii – Class A, B, or C; murder classed separately
Idaho – By crime
Illinois – Level X, 1, 2, 3, or 4; murder classed separately
Indiana – Class A, B, C, or D
Iowa – Class A, B, C, or D
Kansas – Grid system
Kentucky – Class A, B, C, or D
Louisiana – By crime
Maine – Class A, B, or C
Maryland – By crime
Massachusetts – By crime
Michigan – Class A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H
Minnesota – By crime
Mississippi – By crime
Missouri – Class A, B, C, D, or E
Montana – By crime
Nebraska – Class I, IA, IB, IC, ID, II, III, IIIA, or IV
Nevada – Class A, B, C, D, or E
New Hampshire – Class A or B
New Jersey – Indictable offenses: first, second, third or fourth degree
New Mexico – Capital offenses, first, second, third, or fourth degree
New York – Class A-I, A-II, B, C, D, or E
North Carolina – Class A, B1, B2, C, D, E, F, G, H, or I
North Dakota – Class AA, A, B, or C
Ohio – First, second, third, fourth, or fifth degree
Oklahoma – By crime
Oregon – Unclassified (by crime), Class A, B, or C
Pennsylvania – First, second, third degree or unclassified (by crime)
Rhode Island – By crime
South Carolina – Class A, B, C, D, E, or F
South Dakota – Classes A, B,or C; and levels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6
Tennessee – Class A, B, C, D, or E
Texas – Capital felonies; first, second or third degree felonies; or state jail felonies
Utah – Capital felonies; first, second or third degree felonies
Vermont – By crime
Virginia – Level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or by crime
Washington – Class A, B, or C
West Virginia – By crime
Wisconsin – Class A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or I
Wyoming – By crime
- 18 U.S. Code Section 3559 – Sentencing classification of offenses. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/3559
- New Five-Level Drug Grid. (2012, December 7). Retrieved from https://sentencing.ks.gov/news/current-events/2012/12/07/new-five-level-drug-grid
- 2016 Guidelines Manual. (2016, November 1). Retrieved from https://www.ussc.gov/guidelines