A felony is a serious crime in the United States and previously other common law countries.
The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors. Most common law countries have now abolished the felony/misdemeanor distinction and replaced it with other distinctions such as between "summary offences" and "indictable offences."
In the United States, where the felony/misdemeanor distinction is still widely applied, the federal government defines a felony as a crime which involves a potential punishment of one year or longer in prison.
- 18 U.S.C. §3559.