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 how felony classifications work and provide examples of Class D felony crimes and penalties. In some states, this designation might be a Class 4, Level 4, or fourth-degree felony. Class D or Level 4 felonies tend to represent low- to mid-level felonies depending on the state.
Whether a Class D felony represents a low- or mid-level felony depends on how many felony designations a state has. If a state has only four felony levels, Class A typically will be the most serious and Class D the least serious. But some states have upwards of six or more felony levels, which places a Class D felony more towards the middle in terms of severity.
Most states that group their felonies do so 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 for it. If you know the crime is a Class D felony, you would look for a statute that defines the authorized penalties for each felony class. For example, a state may specify that: "Class D felonies may be punished by up to 5 years in prison, a $10,000 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 D, Class 4, or Level 4 felony will vary, as will the crimes designated to receive this punishment. Some Class D felonies carry maximum prison sentences of only a few years, whereas other states could have maximum penalties closer to 10 years.
Most felony statutes indicate a maximum sentence (which may be subject to an enhancement for repeat offenders or aggravating circumstances) and, sometimes, a minimum sentence. In most instances, the maximum penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst offenders. Judges generally have the discretion to impose any sentence up to the maximum.
The actual sentence handed down will depend on a variety of factors. An offender with a lengthy felony rap sheet will typically receive a sentence closer to the maximum, whereas a first-time offender will usually receive a much lower sentence. 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 D, Class 4, and Level 4 felonies. Note the wide range of penalties authorized by the various states.
Kentucky. Felony offenses in Kentucky are divided into capital offenses and four felony classes. Within the four classes, Class A felonies are the most serious and Class D felonies the least. The penalty for a Class D felony is one to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Stalking, witness tampering, and criminal mischief (looting) are examples of Class D felonies.
Michigan. Michigan has eight felony classes: Classes A to H. A person convicted of a class D felony faces up to 10 years in prison. Assault by strangulation, breaking and entering, and shooting at a vehicle are examples.
New Mexico. New Mexico divides felonies into capital felonies and felonies of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees. Fourth-degree felonies are the least serious felony offenses and carry up to 18 months' imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. False imprisonment, aggravated assault, and forgery are fourth-degree felonies.
Tennessee. Felonies in Tennessee are divided into five classes: Classes A to E. Class D felonies are punishable by 2 to 12 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Extortion, aggravated statutory rape, and vehicular assault are examples of Class D 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, or D|
|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|