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New York Criminal Law Basics - Crimes and Sentencing
Categories of Crimes
As is the case in most states, New York criminal law divides offenses into two broad categories -- felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are the more serious crimes while misdemeanors include lessor crimes. Consequently, the maximum penalty for a felony offense is higher than that of a misdemeanor offense. Within the category of felony offenses, New York criminal law further divides offenses into violent and non-violent felonies. Not surprisingly, violent felonies carry the harshest penalties of all crimes.
Level of Crimes
New York criminal law classifies both misdemeanors and felonies using a letter system. Misdemeanors are classified as a level A or level B, for example, while felonies are classified as a level A through level E, with a level A felony being the most serious offense. Within the lettering system, each felony is also classified as a violent or non-violent offense. Aggravated sexual assault in the third degree, for example, is classified as a D violent felony while aggravated criminal intent is a D non-violent felony.
Along with the level of offense a person is charged with, the existence, or absence, of prior convictions will also impact the possible sentencing range under New York criminal law if convicted of the current offense. A defendant with no priors, for example, faces less time in prison than someone who has a previous criminal conviction. In the same manner that offenses are divided into violent and non-violent offenses for the purposes of charging a defendant with a crime, previous convictions are likewise classified as violent or non-violent convictions. A previous conviction for a violent crime can also negatively impact a sentence for a current offense.