Each state as well as the federal government categorize crimes into different classifications. In general, crimes can fall into one of three main categories: an infraction, a misdemeanor or a felony.
Felonies are often further divided into separate sub-categories. Depending on the jurisdiction, felonies can be separated into classes using a letter system or they may be differentiated by different degrees using numbers. The categories can include: class A felonies, class B felonies and class C felonies. Some states also have class D and E felonies included on their books. Class A felonies are considered to be more serious than class B felonies and class B more serious than class C, etc.
Some jurisdictions use a number system instead of letters to classify their felony crimes. So, instead of using the term, “class A felony”, “level 1 felony” is used.
The definition and consequences of infractions, misdemeanors and felonies vary from state-to-state.
In general, an infraction is the least serious of the three categories. Typically, courts impose fines to be paid for infractions and no jail time is given. An example of an infraction is a parking ticket.
Misdemeanors are considered to be more serious than an infraction but less serious than a felony. A misdemeanor offense can carry up to one year of jail time and the court may also impose fines. Most jurisdictions have a $5,000 maximum fine for misdemeanors. Several states also classify misdemeanors into categories similar to felonies. Examples of this classification system can include: class A, B or C misdemeanor or level 1, 2 or 3 misdemeanor.
A felony offense is the most serious of the three categories. Felony crimes usually (but not always) involve violence. Prison time for felonies typically can range from over one year to a life sentence in prison. The court may also impose fines that can range vastly depending on the jurisdiction. If convicted and found guilty of some felonious crimes, such as murder, the death penalty may be imposed.
In addition to fines and jail time, a felony conviction can impact an individual long after they have served their sentence and paid off any fines. A felony conviction can restrict one’s ability to travel outside of the country, can restrict the right to vote, prevent gun ownership and create major challenges for obtaining future employment.
Class A felonies (or level 1 felonies) are the most serious of crimes. Examples of class A felonies can include: first degree murder, rape and kidnapping. Because these types of crimes are considered to be the worst of the worst; the most severe penalties are imposed for class A (level 1) felonies.
In comparison, class B felonies (or level 2 felonies) are less severe than class A felonies. These crimes are still very serious and carry weighty penalties. Manslaughter, robbery, some drug-related crimes as well as some sexual crimes fall into this category.
Class C (or level 3) felonies can include theft (in some jurisdictions), driving under the influence (DUI), some drug offenses and the possession of stolen property.
As with any criminal matter, applicable defenses depend on the specifics of the case. In general though, an experienced criminal defense attorney will review all aspects of the case and share with their client options available for their case. Some cases can be dropped in their entirety while others may have to be mitigated and have the charges lessened.
If any errors were made by the prosecution, the criminal defense attorney will move to dismiss the case based on the errors. An example of a prosecutorial error may include obtaining evidence without a warrant.
Another tactic a criminal defense attorney may take is to request for felony charges to be lessened to a misdemeanor. If successful, this preserves a defendant’s rights (such as voting rights, travel rights, etc.) that would be renounced by defendant if convicted of a felony.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a Class C felony, or any crime, it is imperative to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The benefits of working with an attorney to resolve your matter far outweigh the risk of losing your rights.
The criminal legal system is complex and can be overwhelming. It is crucial to have an expert by your side with the knowledge of the legal system and the desire to guide you to the best possible outcome for your situation. A criminal defense attorney located in your area will assure that all options are explored and will also protect your Constitutional rights as a defendant.