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What Is a Felony?

Crimes exist under categories based on the severity of the offense committed. When classifying a criminal offense, the legal system may categorize the offense as a less serious offense, more commonly known as a misdemeanor, or a felony, which is a more severe criminal offense committed by an individual. Once a person is convicted of a felony, he or she is referred to as a felon.

The word felon is derived from an Old French term that translates into “wicked”. However, the term was more commonly derived from English common law wherein an individual who committed a criminal offense was deprived of his or her property and called a felon. A felony can also be classified into violent or non-violent with the former involving crimes such as battery, assault, murder, rape, etc. and the latter involving property, illegal drugs, and vandalism.

Those who commit the felony are not the only ones subject to the punishment. Those who participate in the felony are also subject to the punishment based on the degree of their participation. A first-degree principal actually committed the felony while a second-degree principal aided or abetted the first-degree principal and were present during the felony. Accessories before and after the fact may also be subject to punishment since they aided or abetted the principals before or after the felony occurred. Other categories of a felony exist depending on their severity and the punishment accorded to them. Some states classify them as A, B, C, etc. while others classify according to degrees.

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