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 Houston Police took Vega into custody shortly after the crash on one count of felony theft for nabbing the HFD ambulance, as well as a misdemeanor charge for failing to stop and provide police with information. Michael Murney, Chron, 1 Aug. 2022 He was charged in 2019 with felony theft, embezzlement, fraud and false imprisonment of an elder adult. Winston Cho, The Hollywood Reporter, 27 July 2022 Baraa Abuowda, 36, of Orland Park; Sammih Kasem, 28, of Orland Hills; and Imad Qendah, 40, of Burbank, are charged with felony theft, according to Raoul’s office. Mike Nolan, Chicago Tribune, 25 July 2022 Fox hired one officer after he’d been fired from a larger sheriff’s office, and within months the second-chancer was in trouble again, accused of felony theft. Steve Thompson, Washington Post, 19 July 2022 He was arrested and convicted several more times between 2012 and 2018 for a variety of offenses, including felony theft, misuse of identification, refusing to submit to arrest, and disorderly conduct, according to his Maine criminal history record. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 1 July 2022 Buker was charged with felony theft by receiving, possession of methamphetamine and going inside a guard line with drugs. Henri Hollis, ajc, 24 June 2022 At the time of his arrest last week, authorities also learned that Alexander was wanted on a felony theft warrant in Napa County. Chloe Melas, CNN, 15 June 2022 It was discovered that the man was wanted by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office on a warrant for felony theft. cleveland, 10 June 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

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Felony.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/felony. Accessed 15 Aug. 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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