AskDefine | Define felonious

Dictionary Definition

felonious adj : involving or being or having the nature of a crime; "a criminal offense"; "criminal abuse"; "felonious intent" [syn: criminal]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Having the quality of felony; malignant; malicious; villainous; traitorous; perfidious; being, relating to, or concerning felony
    O thievish Night, Why should'st thou, but for some felonious end, In thy dark lantern thus close up the stars? - John Milton
  2. done with intent to commit a crime; as, felonious homicide.

Derived terms


  • Webster 1913

Extensive Definition

For the rappers, see Jayo Felony or Feloni. For the band, see Felony (band).
In common law legal systems, a felony is a very serious crime, often contrasted with a misdemeanor. In the U.S. legal system, this distinction is principally used in criminal law, wherein the Federal government considers a misdemeanor crime punishable with five-days-to-a-year in jail, and a felony crime as minimally punishable with a year in prison; infractions, lesser crimes, are punishable with five-days-or-less jail time, or no jail time.
Most common law jurisdictions have abolished the distinction between felony and misdemeanor, (e.g. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic., Australia) s. 332B(1), Crimes Act 1900 (NSW., Australia) s. 580E(1)). Such jurisdictions have adopted other classifications, e.g. in Canada, Australia, the Irish Republic, and the U.K., a crime is either a summary offence or an indictable offence.

United States

In the United States, a felony is intended to be the higher category of criminal offenses, as distinct from a misdemeanor, which is intended to be the less serious category of offenses (although some states have done away with the felony/misdemeanor classification; for example, New Jersey designates offenses as first degree through fourth degree. A third degree offense is punishable by six months to eighteen months in jail. Some states also subdivide felonies into "classes", such as Class A through Class J or Class 1 through Class 7 felonies)

What is a felony and who commits one?

Crimes commonly considered to be felonies include, but are not limited to: aggravated assault and/or battery, arson, burglary, illegal drug abuse/sales, embezzlement, grand theft, treason, espionage, racketeering, robbery, murder, rape, kidnapping and fraud.
Some offenses, though similar in nature, may be felonies or misdemeanors depending on the circumstances. For example, the illegal manufacture, distribution or possession of controlled substances may be a felony, although possession of small amounts may be only a misdemeanor. Possession of a deadly weapon may be generally legal, but carrying the same weapon into a restricted area such as a school may be viewed as a serious offense, regardless of whether or not there is intent to use the weapon.
"The common law divided participants in a felony into four basic categories: (1) first-degree principals, those who actually committed the crime in question; (2) second-degree principals, aiders and abettors present at the scene of the crime; (3) accessories before the fact, aiders and abettors who helped the principal before the basic criminal event took place; and (4) accessories after the fact, persons who helped the principal after the basic criminal event took place. In the course of the 20th century, however, American jurisdictions eliminated the distinction among the first three categories." Gonzales v. Duenas-Alvarez, 549 U.S. __ (2007) (citations omitted).
In some states, felonies are also classified (class A, B, etc.) according to their seriousness. In New York State, the classes of felonies are E, D, C, B, A-II, and A-I (the most severe). The number of classifications and the corresponding crimes vary by state and are determined by the legislature. Usually, the legislature also determines the maximum punishment allowable for each felony class; this avoids the necessity of defining specific sentences for every possible crime.


A felony may be punishable with imprisonment for one or more years or death in the case of the most serious felonies, such as murder, treason, and espionage; indeed, at common law when the British and American legal systems divorced in 1776, felonies were crimes for which the punishment was either death or forfeiture of property. In modern times, felons can receive punishments which range in severity; from probation, to imprisonment, to execution for premeditated murder or other serious crimes. In the United States felons often face additional consequences, such as the loss of voting rights in many states; exclusion from certain lines of work and difficulty in finding a job in others; prohibition from obtaining certain licenses; exclusion from purchase and possession of firearms, ammunition and body armour; and ineligibility to run for or be elected to public office. In addition, some states consider a felony conviction to be grounds for an uncontested divorce. These, among other losses of privileges not included explicitly in sentencing, are known as collateral consequences of criminal charges. Finally if a felon is not a U.S. citizen, that person may be subject to deportation after sentencing is complete.
Civil sanctions imposed on United States citizens convicted of a felony in many states include the loss of competence to serve on a grand or petit jury or to vote in elections even after release from prison. While controversial, these disabilities are explicitly sanctioned by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a Reconstruction-era amendment that deals with permissible state regulation of voting rights.


For state law convictions, expungement is determined by the law of the state. Few states do not allow expungement, regardless of the offense.
Federal law does not have any provisions for persons convicted of felonies in a federal United States district court to apply to have their record expunged. The only relief that an individual prosecuted in Federal Court may receive is a Presidential Pardon, which does not expunge the conviction, but rather grants relief from the civil disabilities that stem from it


felonious in Bosnian: Krivično djelo
felonious in Danish: Kriminalitet
felonious in German: Kapitalverbrechen
felonious in Dutch: Misdrijf
felonious in Polish: Zbrodnia
felonious in Finnish: Rikos

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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