New York organizes felonies into six different classes, ranging from Class E, the least serious type, to Class A, the most serious. Class A felonies are further divided into two subcategories: Class A-I and Class A-II.
For information on misdemeanors, see New York Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Sentence Range for Each Level
New York’s felony sentencing laws are somewhat complicated, imposing sentences based on several factors. There are two basic types of felony sentences in New York: indeterminate and determinate.
When a court sentences someone to an indeterminate sentence, it establishes a sentence range of a minimum and maximum incarceration period. Courts typically impose indeterminate sentences for nonviolent felonies. Once a person serves the minimum amount under the sentence, he or she becomes eligible for parole. If the convicted person is denied parole, he or she will serve no more than the maximum sentence imposed by the court. There are different indeterminate sentences for each class of felony offense.
- Class A-I felony: up to a life sentence with a minimum of between 15 and 40 years
- Class A-II felony: up to a life sentence with a minimum of between 3 to 8 years
- Class B felony: up to 25 years in prison with a minimum of between one year to one-third of the maximum sentence given
- Class C felony: up to 15 years in prison with a minimum of one year
- Class D felony: up to seven years in prison with a minimum of one year
- Class E felony: up to four years in prison with a minimum of one year
A determinate sentence is a set period of years, and does not involve a range. For violent felonies, felonies involving drug offenses, and felonies where the defendant has been convicted of a prior violent felony, New York courts typically impose a determinate sentence. (Class A felonies have indeterminate sentences.) Once a court imposes a determinate sentence, the person convicted has to serve a specific number of years in prison.
The range of potential determinate sentences differs significantly, based on the defendant’s prior conduct, whether the crime is categorized as a violent offense, and what class of felony is involved. Also, people convicted of a second or subsequent non-drug or non-violent felony face enhanced indeterminate sentences instead of determinate sentences.
Here are some examples of potential determinate sentences by felony class.
Violent or drug felony, no prior offenses
- Class B felony: five to 25 years
- Class C felony: 3 ½ to 15 years
- Class D felony: two to seven years
- Class E felony: 1 ½ to four years
Violent or drug felony, one prior offense
- Class B felony: 10 to 25 years
- Class C felony: seven to 15 years
- Class D felony: five to seven years
- Class D felony: at least four years
Life in prison without parole
New York law also allows for a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. For example, anyone convicted of terrorism must serve a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, while those convicted of first-degree murder might have to serve such a sentence if certain factors are present.
A court can order someone convicted of a felony to pay a fine. The amount of the fine can be no higher than $5,000 or double the amount the convicted defendant gained from the crime. For example, if someone is convicted of a felony theft offense for stealing $10,000 worth of goods, the court can impose a maximum fine of $20,000.
Additionally, people convicted of felony drug crimes face much higher possible penalties in New York. The maximum fine for these crimes depends on the class of felony involved.
Drug felony fines
- Class A-I felony: up to $100,000
- Class A-II felony: up to $50,000
- Class B felony: up to $30,000
- Class C felonies: up to $15,000
Examples of Crimes in Each Level
There are numerous felony offenses in each felony class in New York. The following list represents a small sample of felony crimes.
- First-degree murder
- First-degree arson
- First-degree criminal sale or possession of a controlled substance
- Predatory sexual assault
- Second-degree criminal use of a chemical or biological weapon
- Second-degree criminal sale or possession of a controlled substance
- Assault on a judge
- Aggravated criminal possession of a weapon
- First-degree forgery
- First-degree criminal sale of marijuana
- Second-degree assault
- Second-degree criminal mischief
- Reckless assault of a child
- Second-degree rape
- Persistent sexual abuse
- Luring a child
- Issuing a false certificate
- Unlawfully concealing a will
Statute of Limitations
If prosecutors working for the state of New York want to charge someone with a crime, they must do so within a limited amount of time. The statute of limitations is a law that limits how long prosecutors have to file criminal charges. The law serves as a ticking clock and, once the time limit has expired in a case, prosecutors can no longer charge someone for that crime.
Some crimes in New York, such as murder and first-degree aggravated sexual abuse, have no time limit. Other felonies are limited to five years, though there are exceptions. For more complete explanation of the time limits involved, read New York Criminal Statute of Limitations.
Find a Lawyer
If you are convicted of a felony offense in New York you face the possibility of years, or even decades, in prison, not to mention significant fines. If you learn that you are being investigated for or charged with a felony, your first action should be to contact a criminal defense attorney in your area. Only a local defense lawyer who has experience representing defendants in local criminal courts and who has dealt with local prosecutors can evaluate your case and give you legal advice.