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The following is for informational purposes only

What is a Class E Felony?

"Class E" felonies are a type of lesser felony. They are called "Class E" because of the crime committed, its severity, and its related punishments. For example, a Class A felony would be akin to premeditated murder, whereas a Class E felony might be assault with a deadly weapon.

What’s the Difference Between a Class E Felony and a Class E Misdemeanor?

There are two ways to get slapped with a felony charge. There are federal laws that will incur felony charges, and there are state laws that carry felony charges. Those charged with federal felony crimes receive a predictable punishment; however, sentences put on those accused of state felony crimes very differently between state lines. At the same time, states can give out misdemeanors of various classes.

There is a considerable difference between Class E felonies and Class E misdemeanors; the most significant difference is the level of severity both used in the crime and the punishment. Felonies are permanent scars on the records of the accused. Felonies carry with them more than just fines and prison time. They also bring with them social disqualification.

On the other side, misdemeanors are the lesser of evils. They usually come with heavy fines and short prison stays, but nothing similar to felonies. It is possible to be charged with a misdemeanor and still survive the court system primarily intact. Felonies make this nearly impossible if a conviction occurs.

Frequently Asked Questions about Class E Felonies

What States Charge with Class E Felonies?

South Dakota, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, and Colorado.

Can I be Charged with a Class E Felony in Another State?

Crimes are charged in the state where the crime occurred. Note that Class E felonies are only a type of categorization of crimes. One state may charge a Class E crime while another may charge the same crime as "unclassified".

What Kind of Crimes are Class E Felonies?

Class E felonies are interesting because crimes must be committed to a specific degree for the states that use them. Degrees are declared based on the crime’s severity and the actions the accused took. For example, a person guilty of 1st-degree murder in New York will face a Class A felony. Class E felonies are 3rd or 4th-degrees of crimes. This means they may have been unintended, unexpected, or negligence based. Examples include:

  • 4th-degree arson (causing reckless damage to another’s property)
  • 4th-degree criminal possession or selling of stolen property
  • 4th-degree falsifying criminal or business records
  • 3rd-degree rape or sexual assault
  • 3rd-degree criminal mischief (causing repairable damage to another’s property)
  • 3rd-degree computer or phone tampering

Why Can Class E Felony Crimes be Charged as a Higher Class?

Judges decide punishment based on more than just the crime being committed. They look at additional factors that may or may not have affected the outcome of the crime. As more elements are present in a crime, the punishments increase exponentially. Some exacerbating factors can be:

The occurrence of prior convictions in an accused's record will increase classification. There are a few years before the accused can remove infractions and misdemeanors from a register, but in the case of felonies, they're permanent. Seeing other convictions on a record will often result in a more extended punishment for the newest addition.

Another thing that impacts a judge’s ruling is the victim’s vulnerability. If a crime is against a particularly vulnerable person, there will often be a show of force through the law. Judges must balance their rulings between serving justice and setting a precedent for similar crimes in the future.

If the accused committed the crime with a weapon, authorities might also add additional punishment to the charges. Weapons during a crime always increase the severity of the sentence since conflict can become deadly at that point.

Whether or not the crime seemed motivated by hate beliefs is also considered. Hate crimes often target people based on race, color, sexual choices, disabilities, age, and social preferences. They are some of the most challenging crimes to protect against on an individual basis; there is a social interest in ostracizing those who commit these crimes.

What Kind of Punishments are Out There?

Punishments for felonies all have the same premise: heavy fines and prison time. The only difference is the scale of the sentence. Additionally, since every state defines a Class E felony differently, it is impossible to say the exact punishments. However, here is a sample of some of the consequences out there in the US:

  • Wisconsin is known for some of the harshest felony jail time punishments; Class E felonies in Wisconsin are significant. They are punishable by state statute for up to 15 years in state prison. They also come with a maximum fine of $50,000. Some qualifying examples of Wisconsin Class E felonies include possession of cocaine or narcotics or aggravated battery.
  • In Nevada, criminals who have committed Class E felonies are looking at closer to four years of imprisonment. These charges also typically come with a few thousand dollars worth of fines. Class E felonies in Nevada include selling fight animals, medical and food stamp fraud, and criminal gang recruitment.
  • In Missouri, the state legislature recently added Class E criminal cases to the state's criminal code. They bring a new classification of punishments to the state's statutes. Class E felonies are punishable in Missouri by four years and up to $10,000 of fines. Some examples of Class E crimes in Missouri include incest, counterfeiting, deceptive business practices, harassment, and child abuse.
  • In New York, Class E felonies are considered "violent" or "non-violent" felonies. For crimes committed in New York, this means punishment of at least a year. Fines and fees of at least a few thousand dollars are also usually applied. New York Class E felonies include luring a child, 4th-degree grand larceny, receiving sports bribes, and rent gouging.
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