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 Class A, B, and C or Classes 1 to 5. Others classify by "levels," such as Level 1, 2, 3, and the like.
This article will discuss common Class A, Class 1, and Level 1 felony crimes and penalties. This offense level tends to represent the most serious offenses in a state's criminal code.
Note: Not all states use these classifications. Some state codes specify penalties for each individual crime or divide felony levels by degrees (such as first-degree). Review the state chart below for information on each state's system.
As noted above, in states that categorize by class or level, Class A, Class 1, and Level 1 felonies designations generally represent the most serious offenses. Class B, Class 2, and Level 2 are the next most serious and so on. A few states have separate designations for capital or life felonies, such as premeditated murder.
States group their felonies in order to assign a punishment that corresponds to offense severity. 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, a state may specify that Class A felonies are punished by up to 40 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $60,000. In the state's criminal code, certain crimes would specify their penalty as a Class A felony, such as: A person who commits first-degree murder is guilty of a Class A felony.
Because each state has its own penal code and its own view of how much punishment a particular crime deserves, the penalty for a Class A, Class 1, or Level 1 felony will vary, as will which crimes are designated to receive this punishment.
Some states designate Class A, Class 1, and Level 1 felonies as those subject to life imprisonment or the death penalty. Other states don't classify life or capital offenses (they stand on their own) and, instead, use Class A, Class 1, and Level 1 to designate the highest possible prison sentence in terms of years—such as 30 or 40 years' prison time. These serious felony classifications might also impose a minimum prison sentence or a sentence range, such as 10 to 99 years' imprisonment.
Given the broad range of penalties typically available, the actual penalty handed down will depend on a variety of factors. An offender who has a lengthy felony rap sheet will typically receive a sentence on the high end of the range, whereas a first-time offender will be on the low end. Other factors that judges consider in handing out sentences include the circumstances of the crime, the victim, and the defendant's background and remorsefulness.
Here are a few examples of crimes and penalties for Class A, Class 1, and Level 1 felonies.
Indiana. Level 1 felonies carry 20 to 40 years in prison. Examples include aggravated rape with a weapon and drug dealing resulting in death. (Murder is an unclassified felony with penalties of life imprisonment or death.)
Illinois. A person convicted of a Class 1 felony in Illinois faces 4 to 15 years in prison. Examples include residential burglary, criminal sexual assault by force, and second-degree murder. More severe than a Class 1 felonies are Class X felonies, punishable by 6 to 30 years' imprisonment. (First-degree murder carries its own penalties.)
North Carolina. North Carolina has 10 felony classifications. Class A felonies can be punished by prison for life without parole or death. Examples include first-degree murder and the use of weapons of mass destruction.
The following states have classified their felony crimes by class A, B, C, and so on; or levels 1, 2, 3, and so on: 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.
|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||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6|
|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-, or 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|