Certain crimes, considered by society to be serious in nature, are identified as felonies, and can carry substantial penalties, including substantial fines and prison time.
As a general rule, felony offenses are those which carry a potential prison term of more than one year. A felony is considered to be a wrong against society as a whole, and the state, in the person of a prosecutor or district attorney, brings all legal action related to felony prosecutions. Conviction of a felony can lead to further restrictions, including the loss of the right to vote, as well as disqualification for ownership of firearms.
Certain crimes, by their very nature, are considered so heinous or severe that they are always considered felonies. Homicide, kidnapping and burglary are examples. In most other instances, whether or not an illegal act constitutes a felony depends on the severity of the crime. With theft crimes, it’s the dollar amount—which varies from state to state—that distinguishes between grand theft/grand larceny, a felony, and petty theft/petty larceny, a misdemeanor.
Most felony charges involve some harm or threat of harm to another person. Many jurisdictions punish repeat offenses for certain crimes, such as DUI, as felonies, even though a first offense may be a misdemeanor.
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