What Is a Class D Felony?

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 What Is a Class D Felony Crime?

The criminal justice system uses three classifications of crimes: citations, misdemeanors, and felonies. Misdemeanors are more serious than a citation (an example of a citation is a traffic ticket) but less serious than felony charges. Citations are punishable by a fine. Misdemeanors are punishable by less than one year in jail and a larger fine. Felonies are punishable by at least one year in jail or prison and an even larger fine.

States divide felonies into categories. One category is the most serious; for example, manslaughter and murder. One category is the least serious; these felonies are non-violent and victimless. Class D felonies are the least serious felony crimes.

A large number of states alphabetically classify felony charges. (Others, such as Arizona and Colorado use a numerical system, such as Classes 1, 2, 3, and 4.) For example, states such as Alabama and Alaska use the alphabetical classification system. 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
  • Class D.

The types of felony crimes included in each class, the number of class groups, and the sentencing guidelines vary state by state.

There are also jurisdictions that do not have alphabetical or numerical classes. Instead, they use a hybrid class and level system. For example, federal criminal laws have approximately 43 different levels of felony crimes.

For states that use the alphabetical 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 (meaning the punishment has to be at least one year in jail or prison and perhaps a small fine), is the least serious and is considered minor compared to other classes of crimes.

What Is the Sentence for a Class D Felony Criminal Conviction?

The punishment for Class D felony charges, if convicted, varies depending on the jurisdiction and the crime charged. In most cases, sentences will consist of some of the following:

  • A period of time in jail
  • A requirement to pay fines and court costs
  • In cases involving financial crimes such as forgery, fraud, or theft, restitution to the victim
  • Taking mandatory drug and alcohol tests and attending treatment
  • In cases that involve stalking or domestic abuse, no-contact orders
  • Anger management counseling
  • For felony DWI/DUI cases, suspension or revocation of driving privileges. The sentence may also include an order to use a vehicle interlock device on the car (a device that prevents the car from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath)
  • Community service
  • Probation, whether supervised or unsupervised

In some jurisdictions, the sentence for a particular crime is fixed: every person convicted will suffer the same punishment. In most states, however, a judge has discretion regarding the imposed sentence. The judge is allowed to consider the nature and severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history and current probation status, and the likelihood that the individual will re-offend. 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 school, rent an apartment, or obtain a mortgage loan if a background check is required.

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 others may impose a sentence of up to 40 years.

In the federal system, the punishment for a felony that would be a Class D felony if tried at the state level is more than 5 years but less than 10 years in federal prison. Examples of federal Class D federal crimes include mail fraud, identity theft, and tax evasion.

Aside from the classification system of the jurisdiction, other factors can influence the sentence for a Class D felony. For example, 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.
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:

  • Domestic assault;
  • Involuntary manslaughter (accidentally taking a life)
    Aggravated assault (that is, assault with a weapon)
  • Larceny (theft)
  • Burglary of commercial property
  • Theft of a motor vehicle
  • Shoplifting. This crime is a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the total value of the merchandise stolen
  • Fraud, such as bank account fraud and check fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Resisting arrest
  • Weapons violations
  • Possession of small amounts of illegal substances, with or without the intent to distribute
  • Felony DWI/DUI
  • Stalking
  • Human trafficking
  • Promoting prostitution
  • Child enticement (luring a child to a remote location for sexual purposes)
  • Forgery
  • Arson if the fire is set on vacant property or land. If the land is occupied, it will be classified as a more serious offense than Class D

There are circumstances that 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:

  • Used a weapon
  • Inflicted severe bodily harm or death
  • Used alcohol or drugs
  • Violated a restraining order
  • In a domestic abuse case, there is a pattern of abuse
  • Is a repeat offender

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 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 did not intend to commit the crime, were unaware of their actions, 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. Similarly, it can be used in stalking or assault 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 will argue that they believed they had permission to enter a building, permission to use another individual’s signature or identification documents, or permission to use someone else’s car. They will claim they lacked the knowledge necessary to form an intent to commit the crime.

What Other Rights Can I Lose if I am Convicted of a Felony?

As noted above, a felony conviction can have life-long consequences 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 and visitation
  • Public benefits access, such as food stamps
  • Retaining or renewing professional licenses
  • Eligibility to obtain federal student loans
  • 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 a conviction will impact you for the rest of your life. Unlike a citation or a misdemeanor, which will drop off your record after some time, a felony is permanent. As noted above, in addition to jail time, many privileges may be affected by a felony conviction. This is especially true for repeat offenders.

If you are facing felony charges, contacting a criminal lawyer is in your best interest. A criminal lawyer will review your case, advise on the best defenses, and represent you during court proceedings. Perhaps most importantly, a defense attorney will vigorously try to get your charge lowered from felony to misdemeanor. The lawyer will do that through negotiation with the prosecution or, if the case goes to trial, by presenting evidence to the judge that your crime was less serious than a felony.

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