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What Is a Second Degree Felony?

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All states divide up felony crimes in order to differentiate between very serious crimes and those felonies that are less serious in nature. A number of states have first, second, third and fourth degree felonies, and for those states, including Pennsylvania, a second degree felony is a serious crime that usually is punished by a significant prison term and can also include a significant fine.

Second degree felonies include:

  • Aggravated arson – New Jersey
  • Aggravated battery – Florida
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon – Utah
  • Burglary – New Jersey
  • Intoxicated manslaughter – Texas
  • Shooting from a motor vehicle – New Mexico

Maximum and Minimum Sentences

While states differ on whether they include a sentencing range or only a maximum sentence for second degree felonies, most states have a presumptive punishment of up to 10 to 15 years in prison. For example, Ohio includes a ceiling of no more than 9 years in prison, while Pennsylvania has a maximum penalty for second degree felonies of 10 years in prison. The presumptive sentence in Texas can be a bit more severe, ranging from 2 to 20 years in prison. All states also include fines, which may or may not be handed out by a judge issuing a sentence for second degree felony. The fines are closely bunched in all states – $10,000 to $20,000 – with the exception of New Jersey. There, the fine can be as high as $150,000 for a second degree felony.

Extended Sentences

While the specific sentencing structure differ from state to state, all allow for enhanced penalties for a number of factors – including things like prior convictions, violent crimes, use of a firearm or other aggravating circumstances. For example, a second degree felony in Texas for a defendant with a previous felony conviction allows the judge to consider the next-highest sentencing range. In Pennsylvania, the sentencing range for conviction of aggravated battery, a second degree felony, increases to a minimum of 10 years – instead of a maximum of 10 years, with a previous violent criminal conviction. With two prior violent felony convictions, the sentence range increases to a minimum of 25 years in prison.

Loss of Rights and Benefits

As soon as you are convicted of a second degree felony you lose the following rights in most states:

  • Hold state office
  • Vote
  • Serve on a jury
  • Own or possess a gun
  • Enlist in the armed services
  • Work in some occupations that require certain state or federal licenses.

In many of the states with second degree felonies – including New Mexico – the right to vote is automatically restored once the sentence has been completed, including any parole or probation obligations. In most other states, an expungement, set aside or pardon from the governor is required if a felon wants other civil rights restored.

Employment and Housing with a Felony Record

There is no state in the country where it is not a challenge for individuals with second degree felony convictions to get a job or housing. There is no state that stops an employer or landlord from searching the criminal record of a prospective tenant or employee. While some states have laws that require state agencies to only turn down an applicant with a criminal record if that specific conviction is an issue with the job being sought, experts say that doesn’t significantly felons find jobs or housing. Instead, state or federal programs that include tax credits for hiring felons offer the most assistance.

Clearing Your Record 

It is generally very difficult to expunge the records of a second degree felony conviction. For example, New Mexico does not grant expungements if a felony conviction is involved. In Pennsylvania, expungements are possible, but the applicant must be 70 years old or older and have a clean record for the past 10 years. New Jersey also includes a waiting period after completion of the second degree felony sentence. An applicant for an expungement in New Jersey must wait a minimum of 10 years and can only have a single conviction on his or her record. Pardons from the governor are available in some states. Normally, an application goes through the state’s pardon board. In Texas, anyone with a felony conviction can ask for a pardon. However, only a handful of pardons are granted each year by the governor in Texas, and that is generally true in all states in which pardons are available for felons.

Details on Second Degree Felony by State:


New Jersey

New Mexico





This article is not intended as legal advice; consult a criminal attorney for specific advice on a second degree felony charge.

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