A felony is usually defined as any criminal charge that results in a sentence of greater than one year. All other crimes are classified as either misdemeanors (less than one year sentence) or citations/infractions (resulting in only a warning or a fine). Thus, felonies are considered the most serious types of criminal offenses. They typically involve serious harm to another person, or a theft of very valuable property. Felonies may also involve crimes that are deemed harmful or dangerous for society (such as distribution of drugs).
What Are Some Examples of Felony Charges?
Criminal sentencing laws are different for each state, and so naturally the definition of a felony may vary from place to place. However, most states would include the following crimes under their felony classifications:
- Sexual assault crimes
- Interstate interference with custody
- Using a device to cheat at gambling
- Certain forms of domestic violence
- Serious cases of assault and battery, such as battery with the intent to commit mayhem
- Grand theft crimes
- Cheating at gambling and teaching others how to cheat
- Human Trafficking
- Compelling people into prostitution
- Involuntary servitude
- Drunk driving that results in death or serious bodily injury to another person
- Drug distribution
There may be many other types of felony charges as well. Also, some misdemeanor charges can be changed to felony status if certain factors are present (such as assault on a police officer, woman, or child, or the use of a deadly weapon).
Can Felonies Sentences Be Reduced?
Criminal sentences for felonies can sometimes be reduced. This can happen if the person is a first-time offender and the judge determines that alternative sentencing is an option. This may result in a shorter sentence, or in other options such as house arrest. Also, a sentence can be reduced if there is an applicable criminal defense, such as self-defense. However, such options are not available in every case and may depend on the individual facts involved.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Felony Charges?
The assistance of a qualified lawyer is generally needed when dealing with felony charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you on the criminal laws in your state, and can help represent you during trial. Also, your lawyer can inform you of any defense options that might be available for your case.