There are two classifications of crimes used in the criminal justice system, misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are more serious than a citation but less serious than felony charges. They are usually punishable by less than one year in jail and a smaller fine.
The second class of crime is felonies. These crimes are the most serious classification. They are usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and larger fines.
A large number of states alphabetically classify felony charges. This classification system is utilized to ensure that sentences imposed for felony convictions remain consistent. Generally, the classes are:
- Class A;
- Class B;
- Class C; and
- Class D.
The types of felony crimes included in each class, the number of class groups and the sentencing guidelines vary state by state. States such as Alabama and Alaska, for example, use the alphabetical classification system.
Some states use a numerical class system to categorize felonies. These classes may include:
- Class 1;
- Class 2;
- Class 3; and
- Class 4.
Examples of states that use this classification system include Arizona and Colorado. There are also jurisdictions that do not have classifications such as explained above and use a hybrid class and level system. For example, federal criminal laws have approximately 43 levels of felony crimes instead of classes of felony crimes.
In most cases, for states that use the numerical classification system, Class A felonies are the most severe and violent crimes. Convictions of these crimes carry some of the highest punishments.
In contrast, a Class D felony, while still classified as a felony, is the least serious and is considered minor when compared to other classes of crimes. This classification of crime generally includes crimes that are non-violent or victimless crimes that do not involve physical violence towards another individual.
What is the Sentence for a Class D Felony Criminal Conviction?
The punishment for Class D felony charges, if convicted, vary depending on the jurisdiction and the crime charged. In most cases, sentences will consist of:
- A period of time in jail;
- A requirement to pay fines and court costs;
- Restitution in cases involving financial crimes such as forgery or fraud;
- Community service;
- Taking mandatory drug and alcohol tests;
- No-contact orders in cases that involve stalking;
- Suspension or revocation of driving privileges for felony DWI/DUI cases, which may include a vehicle interlock device; and/or
- Probation and/or location monitoring.
There may be cases where a judge has discretion regarding the sentence that is imposed. The judge may consider the individual’s criminal history, current probation status, and the likelihood the individual will reoffend when sentencing. Individuals who are repeat offenders are likely to face harsher punishments than first time offenders. This may include increased jail time and fees.
Although Class D is the least serious of the felony convictions, since it is a felony, a conviction will remain on an individual’s record permanently unless it is expunged. This may impact the ability to find employment, attend a school, or obtain a residence if it requires a background check.
Could I Receive More than Seven Years in Prison?
Yes, it is possible to receive more than 7 years in prison for a Class D felony conviction. Although this is a less serious offense, sentences vary by jurisdiction. Many states will impose a sentence of less than 7 years but other states may impose a sentence up to 40 years.
In the federal system, the punishment for a Class D felony is less than 10 years but more than 5 years in jail. Examples of federal crimes include mail fraud, identity theft, and tax evasion.
Aside from the classification system of the jurisdiction, there are other factors than can influence the sentence for a Class D felony. Class D felony jail time can be increased if the defendant has a prior criminal history.
How Serious are Class D Felonies?
All felony charges are serious and can include life-long consequences and loss of rights, as discussed below. Class D felonies are considered the least serious felony in many jurisdictions. Some states, however, do not have a Class D felony classification. Other states may refer to a felony penalty as “unclassified,” which means the penalty for that crime is written into the law defining the felony crime because the crime is not as serious and/or doesn’t fit into existing categories.
A Class D felony is much more serious than a Class D misdemeanor. Class D misdemeanors usually carry a punishment of less than 30 days in jail and a fine of less than $250. The punishment for misdemeanors does not involve the same losses of rights as felony punishments.
What are Some Common Examples of Class D Felony Crimes?
Class D felonies vary by state and jurisdiction, but often include:
- Involuntary manslaughter;
- Resisting arrest;
- Weapons violations;
- Domestic assault;
- Aggravated assault;
- Burglary of commercial property;
- Theft of a motor vehicle;
- Shoplifting, depending on the total value of merchandise stolen;
- Possession of illegal substances;
- Possession of illegal substances with the intent to distribute;
- Felony driving under the influence;
- Reckless burning of trash or brush;
- Fraud such as bank account fraud and check fraud;
- Human trafficking;
- Promoting prostitution;
- Child enticement;
- Forgery; and
- Arson if the fire is set on vacant property or land.
There are circumstances which would make a crime normally charged as a misdemeanor to be charged as a felony. For example, with Class D assault, or domestic violence assault, the assault may be charged as a felony if certain factors are present during the incident, such as if the defendant:
- Uses a weapon;
- Inflicts severe bodily harm or death;
- Displays ongoing patterns of abuse;
- Uses alcohol or drugs;
- Violates a restraining order;
- Is a repeat offender; and/or
- Conducts the assault where a child or minor witnessed the abusive conduct.
What are the Defenses to a Class D Felony Criminal Charge?
There may be defenses available to a class D felony charge. These will depend on the individual charged and the type of crime. Common defenses to Class D felonies include lack of intent and lack of knowledge.
Lack of criminal intent is a common defense to felony charges, except felony driving under the influence. In this defense, a defendant argues they were not aware of their actions and/or did not have the mental capacity to formulate intent because of intoxication or mental disability. This defense is common in bank and check fraud cases, where the defendant may argue they did not intend to steal the funds; they only intended to borrow them.
The lack of intent defense can also be utilized in arson cases if the defendant did not intend to set a fair. Similarly, it can be used in stalking cases when the defendant did not intend to scare or threaten the victim.
A lack of knowledge defense can be used against charges of forgery, burglary and motor vehicle theft. The defendant may argue they had permission to enter a building, permission to use another individual’s signature or identification documents and/or permission to use someone else’s car.
What Other Rights Can I Lose if I am Convicted of a Felony?
As noted above, a felony conviction can have life-long consequences that reach beyond an individual’s criminal record. Felony convictions can negatively impact other rights. These may include:
- Voting rights;
- The ability to serve on a jury;
- Child custody;
- Child visitation;
- Public benefits access, such as food stamps;
- Retaining or renewing professional licenses;
- Eligibility to obtain federal student loans; and/or
- The ability to purchase or own firearms.
Do I Need to Contact a Criminal Attorney if I Have Been Charged with a Class D Felony?
While a Class D felony is not the most serious of felonies, it is still a felony and will impact an individual for the rest of their lives. As noted above, many privileges may be affected by a felony conviction. This is especially true for repeat offenders.
If you are facing felony charges, it is in your best interest to contact a criminal lawyer. A criminal lawyer will review your case, provide advice on the best offenses, and represent you during any court proceedings.