7 Most Common Felonies in the US According to Statistics
Published Feb 12, 2024
There are no precise statistics on how many people currently have felony convictions in the US. But, a study at the University of Georgia, as of 2010, reveals that about 8% of the US population have felony convictions. A report by The Sentencing Project also estimates that about 5.17 million people were disenfranchised due to a felony conviction as of 2020.
The numbers are uncertain. However, one thing is for sure: felony crimes are more common than you think. The Bureau of Jail Statistics estimates that 68% of all inmates were behind bars on felony charges.
But what felony crimes are they committing, and what are the most common felonies?
According to statistics, property crimes are the most common felonies in the US. Violent crimes and drug-related offenses follow.
But before we go into the details, let’s first understand what constitutes a felony.
What Is A Felony?
Legally speaking, a felony involves moral turpitude and violating a community’s ethical standards. In lay terms, it’s a severe offense 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. However, 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. Meanwhile, a Class E felony (the lowest class) only warrants a jail term of one year to five years.
While jail terms for felonies 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.
The Most Common Felonies Committed In The US
To come up with this list of the most common felonies in America, we combed through the statistics from public and private organizations. Here are the most common felonies in the US, according to statistics:
According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime Data Explorer, 6,851,830 larceny-theft incidents were reported between 2021 and 2022.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, larceny is stealing someone else’s property without using forceful actions. This offense can be categorized as a misdemeanor, but if it involves a considerable amount, it may be considered a felony.
Burglary is second on this list, with about 1.4 million reported incidents in the US (2017 data). This means about 3,000 burglaries happen daily, or about one every 30 seconds.
We often think of burglary as forcibly breaking a private property to commit theft. However, as per the FBI, using force to gain entry isn’t necessary for a crime to be considered burglary. It can also include unlawful entry without the use of force.
With an estimated 821,182 cases, aggravated assault is one of the most prevalent forms of violent crime 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 2022, US law enforcement agencies recorded 220,450 reported robbery cases. Most of which were committed by offenders aged 20-29 in highways, alleys, and sidewalks. Criminals committed these crimes with handguns, personal weapons, firearms, and knives.
The FBI also estimates that, in 2016, the average value of property stolen per reported robbery was $1,400.
However, robbery rates have been on a steady downward trend for the past decades. And in 2019, the country recorded the lowest number of reported robbery cases since 2006.
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.
Based on the records in the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), about 37.3 million Americans use illegal drugs. At the same time, the BOP estimates that 44.5% of their inmates are in prison for drug-related offenses. This includes inmates convicted for possessing, selling, and abusing illegal drugs.
According to a survey, about 54.3% of women and 30.7% 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.
Based on the current information on the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), there were 207,520 rape incidents and 214,894 offenses reported in the United States from 2021-2022.
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. This makes murder also one of the most common felonies in the country.
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 the death penalty, first-degree murderers are usually handed a death sentence.
Which State Has The Most Felons?
As mentioned, no clear statistics exist on the number of felons in the US. Each state has different rules on expungement and sealing of records. This makes tracking felony convictions challenging. The list of the most common felonies in California differs from other states.
However, most states have disenfranchisement laws that prevent people convicted of felonies from voting. Thus, by looking at the number of disenfranchised individuals, 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 individuals in 2022:
- Florida – 1,150,944
- Tennessee – 471,592
- Texas – 455,160
- Alabama – 318,681
- Virginia – 312,540
- Arizona – 256,636
- Mississippi – 239,209
- Georgia – 234,410
- Kentucky – 152,727
- California – 97,328
You need to remember that each state has different levels of crime tolerance. What’s considered a felony in one state might not be in another. The data presented aren’t conclusive, but they are estimates. So, their accuracy isn’t fully guaranteed.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Most Common Felonies
Which type of felony is the most serious?
Felony offenses are the most severe type of crime. The offenses are categorized by degree. A first-degree felony is the most serious, and a third-degree felony is the least serious.
What are the most common crimes committed?
Theft or larceny can be considered the most prevalent type of property crime. It’s estimated that a person falls victim to theft every 5.5 seconds. The next common crime is burglary, defined as breaking and entering.
What are the worst felonies you can get?
Capital offenses, like first-degree murder, are the gravest crimes. The culprits are subject to the harshest punishments. Those found guilty can expect either life imprisonment without parole, or the death penalty.
What are the most common misdemeanors?
The common misdemeanors include petty theft, possession of controlled substances or drugs, vandalism, perjury, prostitution, indecent exposure, basic assault, trespassing, resisting arrest, public intoxication, and DUI (driving under the influence).
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
A felony is a crime that can result in a term of imprisonment of one or more years. Misdemeanors are punishable by fines or a brief period of imprisonment in a local jail.
Decoding America’s Most Common Felonies And Their Impact
Felony crimes are a significant concern in the United States, especially with cases adding up to the list of the most common felonies. Property offenses like theft and burglary are prevalent. Violent crimes such as assault, robbery, rape, and murder also contribute to alarming statistics. Drug offenses remain common, reflecting strict drug control laws. The disenfranchisement of individuals with felony convictions underscores the extent of this issue. Communities and policymakers must collaborate to address this challenge. They need to work together on comprehensive criminal justice reforms. They must also ensure these reforms are fair to everyone.
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