CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tress on Collateral Consequences and the Early Definition of "Felony"

Tress will Will Tress  (University of Baltimore - School of Law) has posted Unintended Collateral Consequences: Defining Felony in the Early American Republic (Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 57, No. 3, pp. 461-491, Fall 2009)  on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

At common law a felony was a crime that led to forfeiture of the convict’s property. In contemporary American law, a felony is usually defined as a crime that is punished by death, or imprisonment in a specially designated place (prison or penitentiary) or for a designated period of time (more than one year). The attached article examines how that change came about, and fixes the time and place of the re-definition: New York in 1828, during a revision of that state’s statutes. The choice made by the revisors, a compromise between radical reform and adherence to the common law tradition, is placed in the context of two early 19th century reform movements: Codification of the common law, and the founding of the penitentiaries.

How felony is defined - creating more or fewer felonies - gains greater importance in light of the current concern over the collateral consequences of a felony conviction. Looking at how the line between felonies and lesser crimes was originally drawn can offer insight as to where it should be drawn today.

| Permalink


Interesting, wasn't it? I had a reaction piece to this article on Grits.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Dec 10, 2009 6:44:09 AM

Post a comment