Many states, plus the federal criminal code, categorize their felony crimes by degree of seriousness, from the most serious to the least. Some states use a “class” designation, such as A, B, C, and so on; others use “levels,” such as 1, 2, 3 and the like. Class A and level 1 felonies are the most serious, class B and level 2 are less so, and so on.
States group their felonies in order to assign punishment on an orderly basis. Every class or level has a set punishment or a range; and every statute that defines a crime specifies the class or level that the crime belongs in. For example, one state may specify that class A felonies are punished by up to 20 years in jail (plus a fine of up to $40,000); and the forgery statute may state that forgery of a certain type is a class A crime. To know the punishment for this forgery offense, you would need to refer to the statute that gives the punishment or range for all class A felonies.
Because each state has its own penal code and its own view of how much punishment a particular crime deserves, an offense that is a class A /level 1 felony in one state may be considered a class B/level 2 or another state.
Some states avoid the classification system altogether. These states set out the punishment for every crime in the statute that defines the offense itself.
Penalties for felonies can range from one year to life in prison, depending on the crime charged, enhancements (time added to a base sentence), and any mitigating circumstances (time taken from a base sentence).
The following states have classified their felony crimes by class A, B, C, and so on; or levels 1, 2, 3, and so on. Accordingly, these states have Class A/level 1 felonies: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Consult the chart below to read more about each state’s classification system, including examples of Class A felonies and penalties.
|Alabama||A, B, or C|
|Alaska||A, B, or C|
|Arizona||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6|
|Arkansas||Y, A, B, C, or D|
|Colorado||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or unclassified|
|Connecticut||A, B, C, or D; or unclassified (by crime); different sentencing laws apply for crimes committed before July 1, 1981|
|Delaware||A, B, C, D, E, F, or G|
|Florida||Capital or life felonies; or felonies of the first, second, or third degree|
|Hawaii||A, B, or C; murder classed separately|
|Illinois||X, 1, 2, 3, or 4; murder classed separately|
|Indiana||A, B, C, or D|
|Iowa||A, B, C, or D|
|Kentucky||A, B, C, or D|
|Maine||A, B, or C|
|Michigan||A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or H|
|Missouri||A, B, C, D, or E|
|Nebraska||Class I, IA, IB, IC, ID, II, III, IIIA, or IV|
|Nevada||A, B, C, D, or E|
|New Hampshire||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||A-I, A-II, B, C, D, or E|
|North Carolina||A, B1, B2, C, D, E, F, G, H, or I|
|North Dakota||AA, A, B, or C|
|Ohio||First, second, third, fourth, or fifth degree|
|Oregon||Unclassified (by crime), A, B, or C|
|Pennsylvania||First, second, third degree or unclassified (by crime)|
|Rhode Island||By crime|
|South Carolina||A, B, C, D, E, or F|
|South Dakota||Classes A, B,or C; and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6|
|Tennessee||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|
|Virginia||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or by crime|
|Washington||A, B, or C|
|West Virginia||By crime|
|Wisconsin||A, B, C, D, E, F, G, or I|