Crimes are generally categorized as being either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are considered to be minor crimes punishable by up to one year in county jail, and not a federal prison facility. Felonies are considered to be serious crimes that are generally punishable by imprisonment in a federal prison facility, for more than one year.
Crimes are further categorized as being crimes against property, or crimes against a person. Crimes against property include crimes that are directed at someone’s home, as well as crimes against personal property. Alternatively, crimes against the person involve bodily harm and/or injury to another person.
Some of the most common examples of felony crimes against property include, but may not be limited to:
- Robbery; and
- False pretenses, or, obtaining title to someone else’s personal property by making an intentionally false statement intended to defraud the other person.
Common examples of felony crimes against the person include, but may not be limited to:
- False imprisonment;
- Kidnapping, which differs from false imprisonment in that kidnapping involves the movement of another person, while false imprisonment involves confining another person;
- Murder, or the intentional killing of someone else;
- Manslaughter, or the killing of another person without the intent to kill them; and/or
- Felony murder, which takes place when the defendant is committing what the law considers to be an inherently dangerous felony.
Inherently dangerous felonies include:
- Arson; and
Many criminal offenses can be classified as both misdemeanors and felonies, depending on the circumstances. In terms of crime against property, the more significant the destruction to property or the value of the property that was stolen, the more likely it is that the crime is a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
In terms of crimes against the person, the more serious the harm, the more likely it is that the crime is a felony and not a misdemeanor. Some examples of factors that increase the likelihood of the crime being considered a felony include:
- The use of force;
- The use of a weapon; and/or
- Committing the crime against a child, elderly individual, or member of law enforcement.
What Is a Felony Arrest? What Is A Felony Charge?
A felony arrest refers to when the police take a person into custody, on suspicion that they have committed a felony crime. Felony arrest procedure has determined that a felony arrest can take place either before or after a felony charge has been issued. A felony charge specifically refers to the beginning of formal legal proceedings against the person accused of the felony. During this process, the district attorney brings formal accusations against the defendant before the court.
An arraignment is the formal appearance of an accused in court for the first time after their arrest. Arraignment may also be in response to a criminal summons in order to answer the accusations detailed in the complaint or indictment. Arraignments are the first stage of court-room based proceedings, and take place after the initial arrest, booking, and bail phases.
At a preliminary hearing or arraignment, the prosecutor will give the defendant and their attorney copies of the police report, as well as other documents that are relevant to the cases. These documents and evidence may be lab reports, blood or chemical tests, and police reports.
The felony arraignment process largely mirrors a typical arraignment hearing. The person charged with a crime comes before a judge who then:
- Calls the defendant by name in order to completely and accurately identify them;
- Informs the defendant of the charges they are facing and the penalty for each charge;
- Informs the defendant of their constitutional rights, including their right to counsel;
- Receives the defendant’s plea of guilty, not guilty, or in some cases, “no contest.” It is important to note that pleas of guilty or no contest will result in the judge imposing a sentence immediately. A not guilty plea generally results in a trial date set within 60 days of the arraignment for felonies, and within 30 days for misdemeanors;
- Sets and reviews the conditions for release or bail; and
- Sets a future court date for a motion, trial, or any other court proceeding. For the felony arraignment process, the judge is required to schedule a preliminary examination within ten calendar days of the arraignment.
What Is the Difference Between a Felony Arrest and a Felony Charge?
To reiterate, a felony arrest refers to when police take a person into custody on the suspicion that they have committed a crime. A felony charge is the beginning of formal legal proceedings against the person who is accused of the felony, in which the district attorney brings formal accusations against the defendant before the court.
The process of being charged with a felony differs between individual states. However, there are generally two different procedures:
- Grand Jury: Several states and the federal government use a grand jury. A group of ordinary citizens are chosen, and the prosecutor presents evidence against the accused. The grand jury decides whether the person can be charged with a crime. It is imperative to note that this is not a determination of guilt; it is only a determination that there is enough evidence to bring the defendant to trial. According to the U.S. Constitution, a defendant accused of any “capital or infamous crime” cannot be brought to trial unless they are first charged by a grand jury. Nearly every felony would constitute a capital or infamous crime; or
- Prosecutor’s Complaint: In states that do not use the grand jury system, the prosecutor writes a document accusing the defendant of a crime and presents it to a judge. This is known as an information or complaint. In order to ensure that there is enough evidence to go to trial, the court generally holds a preliminary hearing in which they examine the available evidence. They also determine whether the defendant should be brought to trial.
What Are Some Penalties and Defenses for Felonies?
A person convicted of a felony generally faces prison time of over one year, in addition to considerable fines and penalties. They may also be required to pay restitution to a victim.
Restitution involves paying the victim for losses that were caused by the defendant’s commission of the felony. An example of this would be how if a defendant commits aggravated battery, and the victim suffers extensive injuries requiring medical treatment, the defendant can be ordered to pay restitution by covering the cost of the victim’s medical bills.
The defendant may also be sued in civil court by the victim. The victim may be able to recover monetary damages for:
- Physical and mental injuries;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Medical expenses.
It is important to note that first time felony charges may differ, as the court will take into consideration whether the defendant is a repeat offender. And, the commission of a felony carries additional penalties. A person convicted of a sex offense felony, such as rape or child pornography possession, may also be required to register as a sex offender.
In many states, those who commit felonies forfeit their right to vote. Additionally, many states prohibit released felons from engaging in specific activities that would otherwise be lawful. An example of this would be how many states terminate professional licenses such as law licenses, and permits such as firearms permits.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Felony Arrest or a Felony Charge?
If you are involved in a criminal proceeding that involves felony charges, immediately contact an experienced criminal law attorney.
A criminal law attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific criminal laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.