My office building was a former convent. For that reason, forgive me if I draw upon
precepts of Christianity to describe the differences between felonies and misdemeanors. When I
do that, I can tell you that felonies are mortal sins and misdemeanors are venial sins.
A felony is a serious crime – relatively speaking. A mortal sin is a serious offense in the
eyes of the church. You can tell a felony is a serious crime because the potential punishment is
harsh. An offense becomes a felony when it can generate imprisonment for more than one year.
In the very old days, a felony was deemed so serious that you could forfeit your lands or goods or
both to the Crown. Ouch! That would leave a mark!
I can’t even tell you what the maximum sentence is for committing a mortal sin. I suspect
it is more harsh than the sentence for committing a felony.
In New Hampshire we have two types of felonies. We call them A felonies and B
felonies. The A felonies carry maximum jail sentences of 7 ½ – 15 years. The B felonies carry
maximum jail sentences of 3 ½ – 7 years. So – if you’re going to sin badly by committing a
felony, commit the B felony instead of the A felony. We will all be the better for it.
Similarly, New Hampshire recognizes two types of misdemeanors. Again, they break
down into A misdemeanors and B misdemeanors. The A misdemeanor can garner a sentence of
imprisonment of up to one year. The B misdemeanor carries no jail sentence – just a fine. A
misdemeanors are the varsity of misdemeanors and B misdemeanors are the junior varsity.
Felonies and misdemeanors are crimes, so no matter what the grade – A or B – a person
committing a felony or a misdemeanor has a criminal record. No one wants a criminal record, so
avoid committing either.
I found it interesting to look up the history of the word felony. The etymology (the
development of a given word) states that a felon is “one who deceives or commits treason; one
who is wicked or evil; evil-doer,” used of Lucifer and Herod, from Old French felon “evil-doer,
scoundrel, traitor, rebel, oath-breaker, the Devil” (9c.), from Medieval Latin fellonem
(nominative fello) “evil-doer,” which is of uncertain origin, perhaps from Frankish *fillo, *filljo
“person who whips or beats, scourger” (source of Old High German fillen “to whip”); or from
Latin fel “gall, poison,” on the notion of “one full of bitterness.” Celtic origins also have been
I wasn’t kidding when I said that a felony was a mortal sin.
In New Hampshire – unlike a lot of states – felonies and misdemeanors can be annulled.
To keep my analogy to the Christian religion going – it’s like going to confession and being
absolved of your sins.