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 Class 1 to 5. Others classify by "levels," such as Level 1, 2, 3, and the like.
This article will discuss common Class E felony crimes and penalties. In some states, this designation might be a Class 5, Level 5, or fifth-degree felony. Class E or 5 tends to represent low- to mid-level felonies depending on the state.
Whether a Class E felony represents a low- or mid-level felony depends on how many felony designations a state has. If a state only has five felony levels, Class A typically will be the most serious and Class E the least serious. But some states have upwards of seven or more felony levels, which places a Class E felony more towards the middle in terms of severity. You'll need to review your state's laws to find the possible penalties for Class E felonies. Here's how that works.
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. If you know the crime is a Class E felony, you would look for a statute that defines the authorized penalties for each felony class. For example, a state may specify that: Class E felonies may be punished by up to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both.
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 E, Class 5, or Level 5 felony will vary, as will the crimes designated to receive this punishment. Some Class E or 5 felonies might carry maximum prison sentences of only 1 to 5 years, whereas other states could have maximum penalties of 10 or 15 years. Much will depend on whether a state considers a Class E felony to be a low-level or mid-level felony.
Most felony statutes indicate a maximum sentence but not necessarily a minimum sentence. Even if there is a minimum, the range can be quite large (such as 1 to 10 years). Rarely does the maximum penalty get handed down (except for habitual offenders), so the actual penalty imposed by the judge will depend on a variety of factors. An offender with 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, harm caused, and the defendant's background and remorsefulness.
Here are a few examples of crimes and penalties for Class E and 5 felonies. Note the wide range of penalties authorized by the various states.
South Dakota. A person convicted of a Class 5 felony in South Dakota faces up to 5 years in prison. Examples include perjury, forgery, and third-degree burglary. (South Dakota has 8 felony classifications—Classes A to C and 1 to 5—with Class 5 being the lowest level.)
Less than half of all states have five or more felony classifications designated as Class E, Class 5, Level 5, or something similar. Consult the chart below to read more about each state's classification system.
Felony 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|