Convicted Felon

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A person who commits a felony is called a felon. A felony is a serious crime; what constitutes a felony differs from state to state, but in every state, crimes fall into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

1. Infraction
An infraction is a petty offense punishable by small fines. An infraction cannot result in a jail sentence, so the person accused of one is not entitled to a jury trial. In some states, a traffic violation is an infraction; in others, a traffic ticket may be a civil offense.

2. Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that can be punished by up to a year in jail. Instead of receiving a jail sentence, offenders who commit a misdemeanor may be punished by the payment of a fine, restitution, probation, and/or community service. Defendants charged with a misdemeanor are entitled to a jury trial. In some states, selling cigarettes to a minor is a misdemeanor.

3. Felony
A felony is the most serious category. A felony involves serious physical harm or threat of harm, for example, assault with a deadly weapon, forcing a person to participate in prostitution, attacking a family member, attacking a stranger, etc. Felonies are further classified according to the perceived level of seriousness: Class A Felonies, Class B Felonies, etc.

Felons are often referred to in the media as “convicted felons”:

Baltimore Convicted Felon Exiled to Over 9 Years in Prison

Convicted felon bails on job

Angry sheriff questions how convicted felon escaped again

Convicted felon shoots dogs at Gulfport residence

The AP Stylebook defines felon as “a person who has been convicted of a felony, regardless of whether the individual actually spends time in confinement or is given probation or a fine instead.”

Once a person has been convicted of a felony, the person is a felon. As the AP points out, referring to a felon as “a convicted felon” is redundant.

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6 thoughts on “Convicted Felon”

  1. But Merriam-Webster’s defines “felon” as “one who has committed a felony.”

    By that definition, you’d be a felon for having committed the offense, whether or not you were convicted.

    Not to mention the alternate definitions including “wicked person.” I can’t see a problem with emphasizing the fact that you mean the convicted sort.

  2. @ApK, but can we be sure the person has committed a felony if he was not convicted?

    What I mean is, ain’t the term felon itself strictly connected with the judicial system, and thus a consequence of being convicted?

  3. In the French epic _Chanson de Roland_, the villain Ganelon is called a felon. In the Middle English _Cursor Mundi_, King Herod is called a felon. Hmm. I think I’ll write another post on the word felon and its long history in English. 🙂

  4. A little clarification, especially for non-Americans. In the UK and other Britishy* places the legal concepts of misdemeanor and felony are no longer used, at least formally. The terms “summary offence” and “indictable offence” respectively mean roughly the same thing. In the UK and in some US states you do not get a jury trial for a misdemeanor. You always do for a felony in the US, but for misdemeanors it is pretty much up to the individual state re jury trial rules. (the 6th Amd right to a jury trial in the US Const only applies to felonies and federal cases). Also, in some US states no distinction if formally made between a misdemeanor and an infraction. The latter are considered misdemeanors too, just the least serious kind. Civil offenses, as stated, are always different because they are not crimes at all in the legal sense, but torts.

    As for the term felon, it does have a valid, older, generic definition of simply a rotten person and that is perfectly fine. But, because of the legal definition and the way civil liability works, as least in the USA, you probably want to refrain from applying it in public to someone who is not actually convicted of a felony. In a liable or slander action the defense that you just meant it in the “non-legal” sense might not relieve you of the consequences. It is in most minds, after all, a serious accusation to level at someone.

    Along those same lines, Daniel’s point is well-taken. Legally you can’t call someone a felon unless they have been convicted of a felony. So, unless a conviction exists, it’s best not to apply the term to someone. Yet another perfectly good English word pirated by the legal class. Better just call them something less serious nowadays, like a devil, demon, evildoer, monster, abomination, etc. Much less offensive to the modern man and harder to prove. 

  5. Sorry, the reference for the * got left off. Britishy, in legal slang that I am inventing as of the present, describes a common law system where judges a/o lawyers wear wigs, frilly gowns, the judge constantly interrupts, and the accused has to stand in a box, etc.

  6. Maybe this reflects our society’s move away from the principle: A person is innocent until proven guilty.” If we believe in that principle, “convicted felon” is redundant. If we do not, it is not.

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