What is a felony?
In the United States (and previously other common law countries) a felony is defined as a serious crime. Felonies are generally considered to be the most serious type of crime.
Where did the term “felony” originate?
The term felony originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person’s land and goods.
Other crimes were called misdemeanors. Most common law countries have now abolished the felony and misdemeanor distinction and replaced it with summary offences and indictable offences.
In the United States, where the felony / misdemeanor distinction is still widely applied, the Federal government defines a felony as a crime which involves a potential punishment of one year or longer in prison.
View other legal and law definitions in our Investigation Glossary.