Difference Between Felony and Crime

Felony vs Crime

Difference between felony and crime is non-existent to many of us as we consider them synonyms. Many of us are acquainted with the term Felony. Indeed, we have heard the term either through news, television, or in general conversation. Some of us assume that Felony is a synonym of the word Crime and thus the two can be used interchangeably. However, this is not accurate. Further, keep in mind that not every jurisdiction has the term Felony incorporated into its penal statutes or criminal law. It is thus important to identify the difference between the two terms. Think of a Felony as a category or group of crimes that falls under the main pool of crimes.

What is a Felony?

The term Felony is strictly defined as a grave or serious Crime punishable by death or imprisonment. The minimum limit of a term of imprisonment is one year. In jurisdictions that recognize Felonies, such as the United States, they constitute the most serious type of offence or criminal act. Felonies typically refer to crimes that involve serious or grave physical harm or threat of harm and include white collar crimes and fraud. The distinctive feature of a Felony is the consequences attached to it. Therefore, the more serious the act, the greater the punishment. These punishments include the death penalty, a term of imprisonment ranging from one year to life imprisonment and the payment of fines. Examples of Felonies are Crimes such as murder, robbery, burglary, arson, rape, manslaughter and kidnapping. Felonies are further divided into different classes or categories and this division and/or classification may differ from country to country.

A Felony can be identified from the gravity and/or severity of the act committed. The United States typically distinguishes a Felony from a misdemeanor (minor Crime). As per early English Law traditions, a Felony referred to offences such as murder, arson, rape, or robbery for which the punishment included the forfeiture of land and goods. However, this is no longer in place. As with Crimes, in general, persons convicted of a Felony are not entitled to rights such as the right to vote, hold public office, or make or enter into contracts.

What is a Crime?

Traditionally, the term Crime has been defined as an act or the commission of an act that is considered harmful and dangerous to the public for which the person committing the act will be punished under the law. Such acts are typically set out in the law governing Crime and specifically prohibit the commission of such acts. In simple terms, a Crime is an offence against the law or a violation of the law that results in harm or injury to the public or a member of the public. The consequence of such a violation is punishment either by way of payment of fines, rehabilitation, imprisonment or the death penalty. A Crime in certain jurisdictions may be further classified into subcategories such as Felonies and misdemeanors. There are two vital elements that make up a Crime, or rather, it is composed of two elements, namely, the physical and mental element. These elements are traditionally referred to as the actus reus and mens rea of a Crime. Thus, a Crime can include serious crimes or minor crimes.

Felony vs Crime

Shoplifting is a misdemeanor (minor crime)

What is the difference between Felony and Crime?

• A Felony refers to a serious Crime such as murder, arson, rape, or robbery for which the punishment is death or imprisonment for a minimum term of one year.

• A Crime, in contrast, refers to an act or the commission of an act that is against the law and considered dangerous and harmful to the public.

• A Felony is a type of category within the sphere of Crime. Thus, a Crime can also include minor crimes such as shoplifting, theft and others.


Images Courtesy: Shoplifting via Wikicommons (Public Domain)