In general, a felony is classified as a serious type of criminal offense that involves a high degree of fault and damage. The damages resulting from a felony can be physical, emotional, financial, or property related.
Felonies are typically divided into several different categories, such as:
- Violet versus non-violent crimes;
- White collar and blue-collar crimes;
- Property crimes;
- Sex crimes; and
- Drug offenses.
A violent felony is a crime that involves the use of threat or force against another person that often causes physical injury to that individual, and sometimes may even result in death. Some examples of violent felonies include drunk driving, mayhem, and second-degree murder.
Additionally, non-violent felonies are often victimless crimes, which includes criminal offenses relating to drug possession, solicitation, or counterfeiting authentic items (e.g., usually money).
What is the Difference Between a Felony Versus a Misdemeanor?
A crime that is classified as a felony is generally considered to be more serious of an offense than that of a misdemeanor. This is partly because a felony offense requires proof of a higher level of mens rea (i.e., required mental state of intent) than the mental state required to commit a misdemeanor. Also, felony offenses tend to cause greater harm to the victim or society.
For example, grand theft is a felony offense that typically involves the theft of property with a value of over $1,000. On the other hand, petty theft involves the theft of property that is valued under $1,000 and is considered a misdemeanor.
In addition, the punishment received for a felony is usually for a term of imprisonment that is greater than one year. These prison sentences are served out at federal or state prisons, which provide higher security and place more severe restrictions on inmates, as opposed to county jails.
As discussed above, most misdemeanor offenses are considered victimless crimes, such as solicitation of prostitution, being in contempt of court, traffic offenses, and disorderly conduct. In cases where someone does suffer bodily harm due to a misdemeanor, such incidents are usually ones that result in only minor injuries or damages.
Finally, a defendant who commits and is charged with a misdemeanor offense will face a maximum sentence of less than one year of imprisonment. In contrast to felony offenses, these sentences are served out in county jails, which house less violent offenders and contain relatively relaxed security.
What are Some Common Felony Charges?
Although felony offenses and their resulting penalties will vary depending on the jurisdiction, states will generally classify the following crimes as felonies:
- Homicide, including first-degree murder and second-degree murder;
- Attempted murder;
- Sexual battery and rape;
- Domestic violence;
- Destruction of property;
- Kidnapping and smuggling of persons;
- Traffic offenses (e.g., driving under the influence (“DUI”));
- Manufacturing counterfeit items, such as gambling chips;
- Possession of a firearm or prohibited weapon;
- Theft, including embezzlement, grand theft, larceny, and receipt of stolen property; and
- Assault, including battery, assault with intent to kill, assault with significant bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault on a police officer.
What are Some Common Defenses for Felony Charges?
The defenses available for each felony will vary according to the unique circumstances surrounding each case, as well as the type of felony involved. Some common defenses to felony charges include:
- Adequate provocation;
- Mistake or accident;
- Violation of constitutional rights;
- Consent or permission;
- Lack of intent;
- Lack of evidence;
- Insanity or diminished mental capacity.
While this is quite an extensive list, it is not exhaustive of the types of defenses that might be available to a defendant in every case. Again, this is due to the varying state statutes and circumstances that apply to each individual case.
Therefore, a person who is charged with committing a felony offense should speak with a criminal defense attorney to see if there are additional defenses available for their case.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Felony Charges?
The punishment resulting from the conviction of a felony offense is often very serious and could have far-reaching consequences. A conviction will most likely remain on your criminal record for life, which can hurt your ability to find a job, get custody of your children, and in some instances, even impact your right to vote.
Thus, if you are facing felony charges, then you should speak with a local criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. They will be able to explain your charges, what defenses may be available for your case, and can determine the best legal strategy based on their knowledge of the laws in your area.
Additionally, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can also provide representation in court on the matter and help to ensure that your rights are being adequately protected.