From LawGuru Wiki
The distinction between a felony and misdemeanor has been abolished by some common law jurisdictions (e.g. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic., Australia) s. 332B(1), Crimes Act 1900 (NSW., Australia) s. 580E(1)); other jurisdictions maintain the distinction, notably those of the United States. Those jurisdictions which have abolished the distinction generally adopt some other classification, e.g. in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom the crimes are divided into summary offences and indictable offences.
A felony is one of the highest classes of offenses, and punishable with death or imprisonment. It is a crime, typically one involving violence, regarded in the US and other judicial systems as more serious than a misdemeanour. An offense carrying a lesser sentence is usually a misdemeanor.
Crimes which are commonly considered to be felonies include, but are not limited to: aggravated assault, arson, burglary, murder, and rape. Those who are convicted of a felony are known as felons, a social stigma. Originally, felonies were crimes for which the punishment was either death or forfeiture of property. In modern times felons can receive punishments which range in severity; from probation, to imprisonment, to execution. In the United States felons often receive additional punishments such as the loss of voting rights, exclusion from certain lines of work, prohibition from obtaining certain licenses, exclusion from purchase/possession of firearms or ammunition, and ineligibility to run for or be elected to public office. In addition, some states consider a felony conviction to be grounds for an uncontested divorce. These, among other losses of privileges not included explicitly in sentencing, are known as collateral consequences of criminal charges.
Some states have done away with the felony/misdemeanor classification. For example, New Jersey designates offenses as first degree through fourth degree. A third degree offense is punishable by six months to eighteen months in jail.
A civil sanction imposed on United States citizens convicted of a felony includes the loss of competence to serve on a grand or petit jury or to vote in elections even after release from prison. While controversial, these disabilities are explicitly sanctioned by the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a Reconstruction-era amendment that deals with permissible state regulation of voting rights.
Theoretically, federal law allows persons convicted of felonies in a federal United States district court to apply to have their record expunged after a certain period of time with a clean record. However, the U.S. Congress has refused to fund the federal agency mandated with handling the applications of convicted felons to have their record expunged. This means that, in practice, federal felons cannot have their records expunged.
In effect, expunction is determined by state law. Some states do not allow this, regardless of the offense, resulting in a subclass of citizens. These citizens can have extreme difficultly finding a job or even a place to live, regardless of qualifications or references.