Many states group felony crimes into alphabetical classes. The purpose of this is to ensure that the sentences imposed for felony convictions are consistent. The classes typically consist of Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D felony crimes. The number of classes, the types of felony crimes included in each group, and the class sentencing guidelines vary by state.
Some states may use numerical classes rather than alphabetic classes. In general, Class A felony crimes are the most severe and violent of felony crimes, and Class D crimes, while still felonies, are minor in comparison to the other classes of crimes.
A Class D felony is generally a non-violent or a victimless crime that does not involve physical violence towards another person. Examples of a Class D felony vary by state and jurisdiction, but may include:
- Burglary of a commercial property;
- Theft of a vehicle;
- Shoplifting merchandise, depending on the total value stolen;
- Possession of illegal drugs and the intent to distribute illegal drugs;
- Felony drunk driving;
- Reckless burning of brush or trash;
- Arson when the fire is set to land or a vacant property;
- Fraud including check fraud and bank account fraud;
- Stalking; and
The sentences for a Class D felony conviction vary by state and the crime charged. Generally, sentences consist of one or more of the following:
- Jail time;
- Payment of fines and court fees;
- Restitution payments in cases involving financial crimes including fraud or forgery;
- Community service;
- Mandatory drug and alcohol testing;
- No-contact orders in stalking cases;
- Revocation or suspension of driving privileges and the installation of an interlock device on your vehicle in felony DUI cases; and
- Probation and location monitoring.
In some cases, a judge will have discretion over the sentence that is imposed. A judge may take into account the convicted individual’s criminal history, current probation status, and the likelihood of repeat offenses when issuing a sentence. Repeat offenders may face harsher sentences than first-time offenders, including increased fines and jail time.
A Class D felony conviction will remain permanently on your criminal record unless you are able to have it expunged. This will impact your ability to get a job, apply to school, or find housing when these processes require a background check.
In addition, a felony conviction can negatively impact your child custody rights, child visitation rights, access to public benefits such as food stamps and housing vouchers, ability to retain or renew professional licenses, and your eligibility for federal student loans.
The defenses available to an individual charged with a Class D felony depends on the individual charged and the specific crime involved. Lack of intent and lack of knowledge are commonly used defenses to Class D felony crimes.
Lack of intent is a common defense to most felony charges, with the exception of felony drunk driving. When this defense is raised, the defendant argues that they were not aware of their actions, or did not have the mental capacity necessary to formulate intent due to intoxication or mental disability. This is a defense frequently used in bank and check fraud cases, where an individual charged did not intend to steal funds from a business or another person, but only intended to borrow the money.
Lack of intent can also be used in cases involving arson if an individual did not intend to set a fire and in cases of stalking, when the person charged did not intend to scare or threaten the victim through their behavior.
Lack of knowledge may be used to defend against charges in forgery, burglary, and vehicle theft cases. An individual may use this defense if they thought that they had permission to enter a building, make use another person’s signature or identification on documents or exercise control over someone else’s car.
There may be other defense available to a person charged with a Class D felony crime, depending on the specific details of the crime committed.
A Class D felony is not the most serious of crimes, but a felony conviction can have a lasting impact on your future. While you may be able to defend yourself against a Class D felony criminal charge, navigating the criminal court system is often frustrating and overwhelming, even if you are a repeat offender.
It is in your best interests to contact a criminal defense lawyer for help. A lawyer will help you defend against charges, represent you in court, and make sure that you understand your legal rights and any possible defenses in your case.