In Tennessee, felonies are crimes punishable by one year or more in state prison. Tennessee lawmakers designate felonies as class A, B, C, D, or E, and unless a particular statute provides for a different sentence, each felony category has a specified sentencing range. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-110 (2019).)
Misdemeanors (less serious crimes) are punishable by jail terms of up to 11 months and 29 days. For more information on misdemeanors in Tennessee, see Tennessee Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
After crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment (such as first degree murder), class A felonies are the most serious felonies in Tennessee. They are punishable by 15 to 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. For example, aggravated rape (rape that causes injury to the victim, or where the defendant is armed with a weapon or aided by others) is a class A felony. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-111 (2019).)
In Tennessee, a class B felony is punishable by eight to 30 years’ imprisonment, as well as a fine of up to $25,000. Especially aggravated burglary (burglary that results in serious bodily injury) is an example of a class B felony. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-111 (2019).)
People convicted of class C felonies can be sentenced to prison terms of three to 15 years, as well as fines of up to $10,000. Aggravated assault (intentionally causing serious injury to another) is typically a class C felony in Tennessee. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-111 (2019).)
A class D felony is punishable by two to 12 years’ imprisonment, and a fine of up to $5,000. Possession of between ten and 70 pounds of marijuana is a class D felony in Tennessee. (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-111 (2019).)
Class E felonies, the least serious felonies in Tennessee, are punishable by one to six years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $3,000. Any offense that lawmakers have designated as a felony but failed to classify is punishable as a class E felony. Theft of property worth more than $1,000 but less than $2,500 is a class E felony. (Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-35-110, 40-35-111 (2019).)
A statute of limitations is a time period during which the state must begin criminal prosecution. The statute of limitations begins to “run” when the crime is committed. More serious crimes have longer statutes of limitations and the most serious crimes (those punishable by death or life in prison) have no statute of limitations. See Tennessee Criminal Statutes of Limitations to learn more about specific limitation periods for felonies.
Being convicted of a felony has very serious consequences. In addition to time in prison and a fine, a felony record can make it hard to obtain (or keep) a job or a professional license. Felony convictions can also expose you to longer sentences in the future if you are ever convicted of another crime. The best way to avoid a conviction if you are charged with a felony in Tennessee is to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and how to prepare your case to protect your rights and give you the best chance of obtaining a good outcome.