Not all violent crimes carry the same legal consequences. Some are misdemeanors, which carry lesser penalties, while felony sentences are much more severe. When defending someone against violent crime charges, the exact classification of the crime matters a great deal. But what are those classifications? And what are the penalties associated with each one?

Classifying Violent Felonies

The state of Pennsylvania considers a number of factors when classifying a violent crime, including how serious the crime was, who the victims were and any prior convictions you may have. Felonies are the most serious type, followed by misdemeanors and summary offenses.

Violent felonies have several levels of seriousness. In decreasing order of severity, they are:

  • Murder
    This is always a felony. First-degree murder is the most serious charge in Pennsylvania, followed by second- and third-degree murder. First-degree murder can receive a death sentence, while second-degree and third-degree murder carry a life sentence in prison or up to 40 years in prison respectively.
  • First-degree felony
    This can include kidnapping, rape and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. A first-degree felony conviction can involve a fine up to $25,000 and between 10 and 20 years in prison.
  • Second-degree felony
    This includes sexual assault, aggravated assault, and involuntary manslaughter involving a victim under 12 years of age. Second-degree felonies also carry fines up to $25,000 and between five and 10 years in prison.
  • Third-degree felony
    With the exception of some gun crimes, most third-degree felonies are non-violent. A third-degree felony can receive a $15,000 fine and a prison sentence of 3.5 to 7 years.

It’s important to note that some kinds of assault are misdemeanors, which carry less serious repercussions than felonies.

Are Sentences For A Given Crime Always The Same?

No. Judges sometimes have flexibility when handing down sentences. Depending on other factors, they may increase or decrease the penalties associated with your conviction. When crafting your defense, a good attorney will emphasize these other factors in your favor as much as possible.