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 C felony crimes and penalties. In some states, this designation might be a Class 3, Level 3, or third-degree felony. Class C or 3 felonies tend to represent low- to mid-level felonies depending on the state.
Whether a Class C felony represents a low- or mid-level felony can depend on how many felony designations a state has. If a state has only three felony levels, Class A typically will be the most serious and Class C the least serious. But some states have upwards of five or more felony levels, which places a Class C felony more towards the middle in terms of severity.
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 C felony, you would look for a statute that defines the authorized penalties for each felony class. For example, a state may specify that: "Class C felonies may be punished by up to 10 years in prison, a $15,000 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 C, Class 3, or Level 3 felony will vary, as will the crimes designated to receive this punishment. Some Class C or 3 felonies might carry maximum prison sentences of only 1 to 5 years, whereas other states could have maximum penalties of 10 or 15 years.
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 C, Class 3, and Level 3 felonies.
Arkansas. Felony offenses in Arkansas are divided into five classes: Classes Y, A, B, C, and D. The penalty for a Class C felony is 3 to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. (Habitual offenders can receive much higher maximums for a Class C felony, such as 20 or 40 years.) Manslaughter, commercial burglary, and perjury are examples of Class C felonies.
Connecticut. Connecticut has six felony classes: capital felonies and class A to E felonies. A person convicted of a class C felony faces one to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Second-degree rape, robbery, and larceny are Class C felonies.
Florida. In Florida, the law classifies felonies as capital or life felonies or felonies of the first, second, or third degrees. Third-degree felonies are the least serious of these and carry up to five years' imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. (Habitual felony offenders may face mandatory minimums and higher maximums.) Rioting, grand theft of a firearm, and possession of burglary tools are examples.
Indiana. Indiana felonies fall under Levels 1 to 6 and murder has its own penalties. Level 3 felonies are punishable by 3 to 16 years in prison. Aggravated battery and arson involving bodily injuries are both Level 3 felonies.
Utah. Felonies in Utah are divided into capital felonies and felonies of the first, second, and third degrees. A defendant convicted of a third-degree felony faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. (This maximum can increase if the offender used a dangerous weapon, commits repeat felonies, or other factors exist.) Repeat stalking and child endangerment (exposure to drugs) are third-degree felonies.
Consult the chart below to read more about each state's classification system. If you have questions about a particular crime or felony penalty, talk to a criminal defense lawyer in your area.
|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|