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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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 She is now charged with misconduct in public office, a felony. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 25 May 2022 Whether a killing was planned, whether a person had the intent to kill or harm and whether the killing occurred during a commission of a felony are all factors that the lawyers will argue and the jury will have to weigh as this case moves forward. Cameron Knight, The Enquirer, 24 May 2022 South Dakota did allow for divorce when one spouse was convicted of a felony, as Roland had been, but his subsequent acquittal closed that legal path. April White, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 May 2022 More recently, Alabama passed a total ban on gender-affirming care, which made providing these treatments to trans youth a felony, punishable with up to 10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine. Anne Branigin, Washington Post, 23 May 2022 Jessica McCord took a deal that required her to admit to a felony – chemical endangerment of a child. al, 22 May 2022 Authorities also arrested former Loving County deputy Leroy Medlin Jr., 35, on one count of engaging in criminal activity — a second-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Susan Carroll, NBC News, 21 May 2022 Judge Brandon Thompson said Gore will remain in custody until his next court appearance on June 3, citing probable cause that the teen had committed a violent felony. oregonlive, 20 May 2022 While Chappelle has complained that Lee should have been charged with a felony, legal experts and even some of Gascón’s fiercest critics have said Lee’s conduct only rose to the level of a misdemeanor. James Queally, Los Angeles Times, 19 May 2022 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for felony

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near felony

felonwort

felony

fels

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Statistics for felony

Last Updated

27 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Felony.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/felony. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for felony

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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