Kentucky Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences

A felony conviction in Kentucky can mean anywhere from one year to life in prison or the death penalty.

By | Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney

In Kentucky, a felony is a crime that is punishable by one year or more in state prison. Kentucky law designates felonies as capital offenses or Class A, B, C, or D felonies. Less serious crimes (called misdemeanors) are punishable by up to one year in jail.

This article will review the felony classes and penalties in Kentucky.

Felony Classes and Penalties in Kentucky

Like many states, Kentucky divides felonies into classes and assigns a penalty for each class. Capital offenses are the most serious felonies. For the remaining felony classes, Class A represents the most serious and Class D the least.

Below are the minimum and maximum penalties authorized by the law for each class, as well as examples of criminal offenses belonging to that class. In addition to prison terms, people who are convicted of felonies in Kentucky will be sentenced to pay a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000 or double any gain from committing the offense, whichever is greater.

Capital Offenses in Kentucky

Capital offenses are punishable by:

  • death
  • life without parole
  • 25 years to life in prison, or
  • 20 to 50 years' imprisonment.

Murder and kidnapping that results in death are capital offenses in Kentucky.

Class A Felony in Kentucky

Class A felonies are punishable by 20 to 50 years or life in prison. First-degree rape (victim younger than 12) and first-degree arson are examples of Class A felonies.

Class B Felony in Kentucky

Class B felonies in Kentucky carry prison sentences of 10 to 20 years. First-degree assault (deadly weapon), child sex trafficking, and first-degree robbery are Class B felonies.

Class C Felony in Kentucky

A conviction for a Class C felony can result in a prison term of 5 to 10 years. Second-degree manslaughter, theft by extortion (over $10,000), and strangulation in the first degree are Class C felonies.

Class D Felony in Kentucky

A Class D felony is punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison. Stalking in violation of a protection order and bail jumping (on felony charges) are both Class D felonies.

Enhanced Penalties for Prior Felony Convictions

Kentucky imposes harsher penalties for felony offenders with a record of prior felony convictions. They are considered "persistent felony offenders" and subject to longer prison terms than first-time offenders.

How Felony Sentencing Works in Kentucky

As noted above, Kentucky statutes set a minimum and maximum prison sentence by felony class. When sentencing a defendant, a judge uses these minimums and maximums as guidelines and imposes a fixed sentence within that range. Generally, the judge will consider the circumstances of the crime, harm to any victims, and the defendant's background and history when determining the appropriate sentence.

The fixed sentence handed down by the judge represents the maximum amount of time the person can spend in prison. The actual amount of time spent in prison will depend on the person's conduct in prison, eligibility for parole, and parole review.

Criminal Statutes of Limitations in Kentucky

In most states, for all but the most serious crimes, the prosecutor has a limited amount of time after a crime is committed to file criminal charges in the case. This time limit is referred to as a statute of limitations. Kentucky is unusual because it has no statute of limitations for felony crimes, meaning prosecutors can file charges at any time.

Getting Legal Help

A felony conviction can have serious and lasting consequences. Even after serving a prison term and paying a fine, a felony conviction can make it difficult to obtain a job, qualify for a professional license, or earn a degree. If you are charged with a crime, contact a local, experienced criminal defense attorney. A good attorney can tell you what to expect in court, protect your rights, and zealously defend your case.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 500.050, 507.020, 509.040, 532.010, 532.020, 532.030, 532.060, 532.080, 534.030 (2022).)

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