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 What is the Definition of a Felony?

Generally, a felony is defined as a criminal offense which results in incarceration in a prison for 1 year or longer. These crimes typically involve some element of violence and are considered to be harmful or dangerous to society.

Felony crimes also include some of the most serious categories of crimes that an individual can commit, for example, first-degree murder and arson. Crimes which do not rise to the level of a felony will typically fall into one of the two other categories of crimes, misdemeanors and citations.

What are Some Common Types of Felonies?

Common examples of felony charges include:

How Many Classes of Felonies are There?

A felony offense is generally classified based upon the seriousness of the crime. Every state has its own statute which provides separate guidelines regarding how to categorize a particular felony offense in that state.

For example, certain states classify first-degree murder as either a Class A or Class 1 felony. These categories are reserved for the most serious offenses and may result in the maximum punishment.

The remaining classifications of offenses continue in an orderly fashion, for example, Class B or Class 2, Class C or Class 3, etc. The degree of the offense helps determine the convicted defendant’s sentence.

The offenses lessen in severity as the categories go down from Class A or Class 1. For example, if a defendant is convicted of a Class E felony, they will receive a lesser sentence than an offender who committed a Class A felony.

What are the Penalties for a Felony Charge?

Generally, a felony offense will carry a minimum sentence of one year in prison, depending on whether the charges are state or federal. Federal felony charges are divided into categories and classes depending upon the severity of the charges.

If the offense is a felony crime that results in the death of another individual or serious bodily injury to another individual, the felony charge will be more severe than with other offenses. Some theft and property crimes may result in felony charges if the total value of the property stolen is greater than a certain amount.

Certain states have a limit as low as $300, where a theft of over $300 will result in a felony charge. Other states have limits which begin at $1,000.

What is a Convicted Felon?

Convicted felons are individuals who have been found guilty of committing a felony. The term felon usually refers to individuals who have already finished serving their prison sentence and have re-integrated into the community.

Felony charges, however, do stay on an individual’s criminal record longer than misdemeanor charges. In addition, it is more difficult to have a felony charge expunged, or removed, from the individual’s record.

An individual is typically required to indicate whether they have been convicted of a felony when completing:

  • Certain job applications;
  • Housing applications; and
  • Other types of applications.

Therefore, a felon is an individual who has been formally tried in a court of law and convicted of a felony. It is important to note that there is a difference between a felony arrest and a felony charge.

An individual who has been arrested on suspicion of a felony but has not been charged or convicted yet cannot be considered a felon.

Do Convicted Felons have Rights?

If an individual has been convicted of a state or federal felony, they may experience a loss of certain rights. In addition, a conviction may carry with it a series of conditions or restrictions.

These restrictions will vary based upon the jurisdiction and the nature of the offense. The rights that are typically lost include:

  • The right to vote;
  • The right to serve as a juror;
  • The right to possess a firearm or body armor; and
  • The right to drive.

In addition, common conditions which are associated with felony convictions include:

  • Drug or alcohol treatment;
  • Registration as a sex offender; and
  • Drug testing.

Do Felons have Voting Rights?

The majority of states do not allow a citizen who was convicted of a felony to vote. In addition, they are typically denied other rights, as discussed above. A felon who does not have the right to vote, they are referred to as disenfranchised.

Every state has its own laws and may restrict an individual’s voting rights in different ways. For example, certain states will permanently strip the felon of their right to vote and others will allow the felon to vote after their sentence is served.

There are no federal laws governing the voting rights of convicted felons.

Can I Restore My Right to Vote as a Convicted Felon?

In many states, it may be possible for a felon to restore their voting rights after serving their sentence. There may also be other requirements, including paying fines or being placed on parole.

Whether or not a felon can restore their voting rights depends on the laws in the state.

What are the State Laws Regarding Restoration of the Right to Vote?

How an individual’s right to vote is restricted as well as whether they can restore it following their felony conviction varies by state. The following list provides information regarding the state’s approaches to restricting and restoring the right to vote:

  • Maine and Vermont: These states do not restrict voting rights in any way. Even prisoners are allowed to vote;
  • Illinois, Michigan, and the District of Columbia: These states in addition to a handful of other states restore the right to vote to individuals who are:
    • out of prison;
    • on probation; or
    • on parole;
  • California, Colorado, Connecticut, and New York: These states allow people who are on probation to vote, however, those who are in prison or on parole do not have the right to vote;
  • New Jersey, Texas, and Wisconsin: These states, along with many others, do not allow individuals who are in prison, on probation, or on parole to vote;
  • Alabama, Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee: These states, as well as other states, permanently revoke the right to vote for individuals convicted of certain felonies. The felonies which result in this differ in each state; and
  • Kentucky, Mississippi, and Virginia: These states permanently disenfranchise any individual who has been convicted of a felony. In other words, if an individual is convicted of a felony in any of these states, they will lose their right to vote permanently.

If I Can Restore My Right to Vote, How Do I Do it?

The process for restoring the right to vote will vary by state. In many cases, it will involve a complex pardon or clemency process.

In addition, restoration of voting rights is not widely publicized. In other words, officials are not likely to inform a convicted felon regarding their voting rights or the fact that those rights can be restored.

In addition, there is an increasing trend which allows a felon to ask to have their voting rights restored after a certain period of time has passed.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

The laws governing voting rights for convicted felons are undergoing changes and there has been a push towards allowing convicted felons to be able to restore their voting rights. Because of this, the laws are always evolving and changing.

If you have any issues, questions, or concerns regarding restoring your voting rights if you are a convicted felon, it may be helpful to consult with a criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to help determine if you are eligible to have your voting right restored.

If you are eligible, your lawyer can assist you with the process of having your voting rights restored.

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