Last updated on: 4/25/2008 | Author:

What Is a Felon and What Is a Felony?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

U.S. Code Title 18, Part II, Chapter 207, § 3156(a)(3), revised Aug. 3, 2005, offered the following definition of a felony:

“[T]he term ‘felony’ means an offense punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of more than one year.”

Aug. 3, 2005 - U.S. Code Title 18, Part II, Chapter 207, an online legal term dictionary, offered the following definitions for “Felon” and “Felony,”(accessed on June 12, 2006):

“Felon: n. a person who has been convicted of a felony, which is a crime punishable by death or a term in state or federal prison. See also felony.

Felony: n. 1) a crime sufficiently serious to be punishable by death or a term in state or federal prison, as distinguished from a misdemeanor which is only punishable by confinement to county or local jail and/or a fine. 2) a crime carrying a minimum term of one year or more in state prison, since a year or less can be served in county jail. However, a sentence upon conviction for a felony may sometimes be less than one year at the discretion of the judge and within limits set by statute. Felonies are sometimes referred to as ‘high crimes’ as described in the U.S. Constitution.”

June 12, 2006 -

U.S. Code Title 18, Part II, Chapter 227, Subchapter A, § 3559, revised Aug. 3, 2005, stated:

“a) Classification – An offense that is not specifically classified by a letter grade in the section defining it, is classified if the maximum term of imprisonment authorized is:

  1. life imprisonment, or if the maximum penalty is death, as a Class A felony;
  2. twenty-five years or more, as a Class B felony;
  3. less than twenty-five years but ten or more years, as a Class C felony;
  4. less than ten years but five or more years, as a Class D felony;
  5. less than five years but more than one year, as a Class E felony;
  6. one year or less but more than six months, as a Class A misdemeanor;
  7. six months or less but more than thirty days, as a Class B misdemeanor;
  8. thirty days or less but more than five days, as a Class C misdemeanor; or
  9. five days or less, or if no imprisonment is authorized, as an infraction.”
Aug. 3, 2005 - U.S. Code Title 18, Part II, Chapter 227

Jeff Manza, PhD Professor of Sociology and Political Science at Northwestern University and Christopher Uggen, PhD, Distinguished McKnight Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, stated in their 2006 book Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy:

“The term ‘felon’ is derived from the legal classification of crimes. ‘Felony’ is a generic term, historically used to distinguish certain ‘high crimes’ or ‘grave offenses’ such as homicide from less serious offenses known as misdemeanors….

In the contemporary United States, felonies are considered crimes punishable by incarceration of more than one year in a state or federal prison, and misdemeanors are considered crimes punishable by local jail sentences, fines, or both.

While some felons go to prison, however, many others serve time in jail or on probation in their communities.”

2006 - Christopher Uggen, PhD Jeff Manza, PhD

S. David Mitchell, JD, Scholar in Residence in the Dept. of Sociology at the University of Colorado, stated in his Dec. 2004 article “The New Invisible Man: Felon Disenfranchisement Laws Harm Communities” published in the magazine Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life:

“Generally speaking, a felony is defined as ‘a serious crime usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death.’ For example, a felony includes but is not limited to murder, rape, arson, and burglary. By definition, a felony is determined by the length of time that accompanies a conviction instead of the type or nature of the crime committed.”

Dec. 2004 - S. David Mitchell, JD