7 Most Common Felonies in the US as per Statistics
Published Sept 27, 2021
There are no clear statistics on how many people currently have felony convictions in the US. But according to a study at the University of Georgia, as of 2010, about 8% of the US population have felony convictions. While a report by The Sentencing Project also estimates that about 5.17 million people were disenfranchised due to a felony conviction as of 2020.
Though the numbers are uncertain, there’s one thing we can tell for sure: felony crimes are more common than you think. In fact, the Bureau of Jail Statistics estimates that 68% of all inmates were behind bars on felony charges.
But what felony crimes are they committing?
According to statistics, the most common felonies in the US are property crimes followed by violent crimes and drug-related crimes.
But before we go into the details, let’s first understand what constitutes a felony.
What is a Felony?
Legally speaking, a felony is a type of crime that involves moral turpitude and violates the moral standards of a community. In layman’s terms, it’s a serious type of offense that goes against what the community deems morally acceptable.
Depending on the state and the gravity of the crime, felony offenses are punishable by imprisonment or the death penalty.
Some states dole out punishment on a crime to crime basis. But in most states, felonies are classified into different categories. Class A felonies are often considered the highest form of felony and are punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. While Class E felony (the lowest class) only warrants a jail term of one year to five years.
While jail terms for felonies typically last more than a year, some judges might be convinced to lower it to only six months. But of course, this depends on the circumstances of the case.
(Related: Penal Code 1192.7: Serious Felonies in California)
The Most Common Felonies in the US
To come up with this list, we combed through the statistics from both public and private organizations. Here are the most common felonies in the US according to statistics:
According to Statista and Pew Research Center (PRC), larceny or theft is the most common felony committed in the US. The former estimates that more than 5 million incidents of larceny were committed in the US in 2019. While PRC estimates the larceny rate at 1,549.5 per 100,000 people.
If you’re not familiar with the term, larceny is an act of stealing someone else’s property without using forceful actions. This crime is typically charged as a misdemeanor. But if it involves a substantial amount, the charge can be elevated to a felony.
According to the FBI, the most common types of larceny are theft from motor vehicles, shoplifting, and theft from buildings.
Burglary takes up the second spot on this list with about 1.4 million reported incidents in the US (2017 data). This means that about 3,000 burglaries happen every day or about one in every 30 seconds.
We often think of burglary as forcibly breaking and entering a private property to commit theft. But as per the FBI, the use of force to gain entry isn’t really necessary for a crime to be considered burglary. It can also include an unlawful entry where no force is used and attempted forcible entry.
3. Aggravated Assault
With an estimated 821,182 cases, aggravated assault is one of the most common violent crimes committed in the US in 2019. This means that 250.2 out of 100,000 Americans have been victims of aggravated assault.
Of these reported assault cases, 27.6% involved firearms, 25.2% used personal weapons, and 17.5% were committed with knives and other cutting tools. The rest used various types of weapons that tend to cause bodily harm.
In 2019, US law enforcement agencies recorded a total of 267,988 reported robbery cases. Most of which were committed by offenders aged 20-29 years old in highways, alleys, and sidewalks. These crimes were committed with handguns, personal weapons, firearms, knives.
The FBI also estimates that, in 2016, the average value of property stolen per reported robbery is $1,400.
For the past decades, however, robbery rates have been on a steady downward trend. And in 2019, the country has recorded the lowest number of reported robbery cases since 2006.
5. Drug Offenses
In states with strict drug control laws, the mere possession of illegal substances already constitutes a felony. This is why drug-related offenses are still some of the most common felonies in the US today.
According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), about 31.9 million Americans use illegal drugs. While the BOP estimates that 46.1% of their inmates are in prison for drug-related offenses. This includes inmates convicted for possessing, selling, and abusing illegal drugs.
6. Rape/Sexual Assault
According to a survey, about 43.6% of women and 24.8% of men in the US have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Most of these incidents, however, were not reported due to fear and social stigma.
In 2019, more than 139,000 rape cases were recorded. This includes cases that were made under the Bureau of Justice’s updated definition of rape.
But the FBI only recorded 16,599 total arrests for rapes, about 17% of which were committed by minors. While arrests for other sex offenses only totaled 28,627.
After years of decreasing murder cases, the US has seen a sharp rise in the number of people killed in 2020. This includes people killed during mass shootings, police brutality cases, and hate crimes.
Based on preliminary data, about 21,000 people were murdered in the US in 2020 alone. This represents a 25% increase in the country’s murder rate, making 2020 one of the most violent years in US crime history.
Under the law, for an act to be considered murder, it must be lawfully unjust and committed with a “malice afterthought“. There are also two kinds of murder: first-degree and second-degree murder. In states with death penalty, first-degree murderers are usually handed a death sentence.
Which State Has the Most Felons?
As mentioned, there are no clear statistics on the number of felons in the US. Each state has different rules on expungement and sealing of records making felony convictions difficult to track.
However, most states have disenfranchisement laws that prevent people convicted of felonies from voting. Thus by looking at the number of disenfranchised people, we can more or less estimate which states have the most felons.
Here are ten states with the most felons based on the number of disenfranchised people:
- Florida – 1,132,493
- Texas – 500,474
- Tennessee – 451,227
- Virginia – 366,065
- Alabama – 328,198
- Georgia – 275,089
- California – 243,181
- Mississippi – 235,152
- Arizona – 233,816
- Kentucky – 197,672
You need to remember, however, that each state has different levels of crime tolerance. Thus, what constitutes a felony in certain states may not necessarily be so in others. And the data presented herein are not conclusive but mere estimates. Thus, their accuracy is not fully guaranteed.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is the lead writer for the SecurTel blog. Her passion for true crime stories and criminal justice has fueled her work and inspired millions of readers around the world.