felony

noun
fel·​o·​ny | \ ˈfe-lə-nē How to pronounce felony (audio) \
plural felonies

Definition of felony

1 : an act on the part of a feudal vassal (see vassal sense 1) involving the forfeiture of his fee
2a : a grave crime formerly differing from a misdemeanor (see misdemeanor sense 1) under English common law by involving forfeiture in addition to any other punishment
b : a grave crime (such as murder or rape) declared to be a felony by the common law or by statute regardless of the punishment actually imposed
c : a crime declared a felony by statute because of the punishment imposed
d : a crime for which the punishment in federal law may be death or imprisonment for more than one year

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Did You Know?

In US law, a felony is typically defined as a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year or by the death penalty. Misdemeanors, in contrast, are often defined as offenses punishable only by fines or by short terms of imprisonment in local jails. Originally, in English law, a felony was a crime for which the perpetrator would suffer forfeiture of all real and personal property as well as whatever sentence was imposed. Under US law, there is no forfeiture of all of the felon’s property, and it is not part of the definition. For certain crimes, however, such as some kinds of racketeering, specific property is subject to forfeiture.

Examples of felony in a Sentence

The crime is considered a felony under state law. He was convicted of felony murder.

Recent Examples on the Web

Prosecutors ultimately declined to charge him with a felony in late 2018, and the city attorney’s office decided to settle the matter through an informal hearing. James Queally, The Seattle Times, "Lawyer Michael Avenatti, accused of fraud and attempts to extort Nike, is arrested," 25 Mar. 2019 Injecting an element of thoughtcrime into the treatment of acts that were already serious felonies, such as assaults and vandalism, was always a dubious constitutional proposition. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Are Hate-Crime Laws Helping?," 22 Feb. 2019 Cosby was convicted of three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault for drugging and molesting Constand, 45, at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. Fox News, "FOX NEWS FIRST: New allegations against Kavanaugh throw confirmation battle into chaos; Trump to address U.N.," 24 Sep. 2018 Bobby Spears, 27, of the 6800 block of South Normal Bouelvard, is also charged with felony aggravated battery in a public place. Hannah Leone, chicagotribune.com, "3 charged in death of man who was beaten and shot in Gage Park," 13 July 2018 Jose Reynaldo Gonzales, 21, of the 1700 block of Heather Drive, has been charged with felony aggravated reckless driving and speeding over 35 miles per hour, according to a statement from Aurora police on Facebook. Megan Jones, Aurora Beacon-News, "Aurora man charged with aggravated reckless driving after crash in city," 9 July 2018 According to Kobach’s first summary of Bader’s case, Bader initially was charged in 2009 with felony aggravated robbery. Washington Post, "APNewsBreak: Kobach sought pardon for VP of corporate donor," 20 June 2018 David Quintavious Knight, 26, was arrested Wednesday on nine felony aggravated assault weapons charges. Fleming Smith, ajc, "Man accused of firing into neighbor’s Decatur home with AR-15," 13 June 2018 In April, the highest profile criminal development occurred when Bill Cosby was found guilty of three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Harvey Weinstein Is Expected to Surrender to Police on Sexual Misconduct Charges on Friday," 24 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'felony.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of felony

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for felony

see felon entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near felony

felonweed

felonwood

felonwort

felony

fels

felsenmeer

felsic

Statistics for felony

Last Updated

9 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for felony

The first known use of felony was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for felony

felony

noun

English Language Learners Definition of felony

law : a serious crime (such as murder or rape)

felony

noun
fel·​o·​ny | \ ˈfe-lə-nē How to pronounce felony (audio) \
plural felonies

Kids Definition of felony

: a very serious crime

felony

noun
fel·​o·​ny | \ ˈfe-lə-nē How to pronounce felony (audio) \
plural felonies

Legal Definition of felony

: a crime that has a greater punishment imposed by statute than that imposed on a misdemeanor specifically : a federal crime for which the punishment may be death or imprisonment for more than a year — see also attainder, treason

Note: Originally in English law a felony was a crime for which the perpetrator would suffer forfeiture of all real and personal property as well as whatever sentence was imposed. Under U.S. law, there is no forfeiture of all of the felon's property (real or personal) and such forfeiture is not part of the definition of a felony. For certain crimes, however (as for a conviction under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or a narcotics law), specific property, such as that used in or gained by the crime, is subject to forfeiture. Every state has its own statutory definition of a felony. Most are in line with the federal definition of a felony as a crime which carries a sentence of imprisonment for more than one year or the death penalty (where applicable). Other states, like Louisiana, define a felony as a crime which carries a sentence of death or imprisonment at hard labor.

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