In the United States, there are two categories of laws intended to address wrongdoing, and/or compensate victims. Civil law addresses behavior that causes some sort of injury to an individual, or some other private party, through the use of lawsuits. The legal repercussions for any parties that are found liable for these acts are generally monetary, but may also include court-ordered remedies such as injunctions or restraining orders.
Criminal law is designed to address behavior that is considered to be an offense against society, the state, or public. This remains true even if the victim is an individual person. A person convicted of a crime may be forced to pay fines, as well as lose their freedom by being sentenced to jail or prison time.
Regardless of whether someone is being charged with a serious crime or a minor crime, the accused person has the right to a trial, as well as certain other legal protections.
What Is A Felony Crime?
There are two classes of crimes: misdemeanors, and felonies. Misdemeanors are considered to be more minor crimes that are punishable by up to one year in county jail, and not a federal prison facility. Alternatively, felonies are considered to be more serious crimes that are generally punishable by imprisonment in a federal prison facility for more than one year.
Generally speaking, there are crimes against property, and there are crimes against a person. Crimes against property involve crimes that are directed at someone’s home, as well as crimes against personal property. In comparison, 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:
- Burglary: Burglary is defined as the unauthorized breaking and entering into another’s home or other structure, with the intent to commit a felony crime, such as rape;
- Arson: Arson occurs when the defendant maliciously burns or chars property, such as a home or office building. A defendant can commit arson to the property of another person, or their own property;
- Embezzlement: Embezzlement is defined as the fraudulent conversion (or stealing) of another’s personal property, by a person who is in lawful possession of the property. Embezzlement generally occurs when a person, who has been entrusted to another person’s property, takes that property for their own use. The most common example of embezzlement would be an employee stealing money from the company they work for;
- Larceny: Larceny occurs when the defendant unlawfully takes another person’s property. It is important to note that the defendant must intend to permanently deprive the other person of their property in order for the crime to be considered larceny specifically. In some states, larceny is known as theft. If the value of what is stolen is significant, the defendant could be convicted of felony larceny. Stealing something of lesser or minimal value may be classified as a misdemeanor;
- Robbery: Robbery consists of taking of another’s property by using force, or the threat of force. To put it more simply, robbery consists of larceny by force; and/or
- False Pretenses: This is the obtaining of title to someone else’s personal property. This title is obtained by the defendant’s 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: This refers to the intentional limitation or restriction of the movement of another person, without their consent to do so. False imprisonment is considered to be a felony crime if the person who was falsely imprisoned is a child, or if force is used to commit the false imprisonment;
- Kidnapping: Kidnapping consists of the carrying away, confinement, or detention of another person, against that person’s will. Kidnapping differs from false imprisonment in that kidnapping involves the movement of another person, while false imprisonment involves confining another person;
- Murder: Very simply put, murder is the intentional killing of anther person;
- Manslaughter: Manslaughter is defined as the killing of another person, without the intent to kill them; and/or
- Felony Murder: Felony murder would be a murder that takes place when the defendant is committing what the law considered to be an inherently dangerous felony. Inherently dangerous felonies include rape, robbery, burglary, arson, and kidnapping.
Many criminal offenses can be classified as both misdemeanors and felonies. 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 the crime is a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
In terms of crimes against the person, the more serious the harm, the more likely 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 Are The Penalties For Felony Crimes?
A person who is convicted of committing a felony crime 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 caused by the defendant’s commission of the felony. An example of this would be how if a defendant commits the felony of aggravated battery, and the victim suffers extensive injuries which require medical treatment, the defendant can be ordered to pay restitution by covering the cost of the victim’s medical bills.
Under some circumstances, the defendant can 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 the commission of a felony carries additional penalties. A person who commits 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 have laws in place prohibiting released felons from engaging in specific activity 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.
Are There Any Differences Between Felony Arrest And Felony Charges?
A felony arrest is simply when the police take a person into custody, on the suspicion that they have committed a crime. This can take place before or after a felony charge has been issued. A felony charge, however, is the beginning of formal legal proceedings against the person who is accused of the felony. The district attorney brings formal accusations against the defendant before the court.
The exact felony charging procedure differs between individual states, but there are generally two different procedures:
- Grand Jury: Several states, as well as the federal government, use a grand jury. The grand jury decides whether or not the person can be charged with a crime. This is not a determination of guilt. Rather, it is only a determination that there is enough evidence to bring the defendant to trial; 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. 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 to determine whether the defendant should be brought to trial.
Do I Need An Attorney For Criminal Charges For Felonies?
If you are being charged with a felony crime, you will need to speak with an area criminal defense attorney immediately.
An experienced and local criminal defense lawyer will inform you of your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and can determine whether there are any legal defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case. Additionally, your lawyer will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.