In general, a felony can be defined as any criminal offense that results in a prison of one year or longer. They tend to be crimes that involve an element of violence and are considered harmful or dangerous to society. Felony crimes also include some of the most serious types of crimes that a person can commit, such as first-degree murder and arson.
Crimes that do not amount to the level of a felony will usually fall into one of two other categories: misdemeanors or citations.
What are Some Differences Between Misdemeanors and Felonies?
There are two main differences between a felony and misdemeanor offense. The first is that felony crimes are generally more serious than crimes that are considered to be misdemeanors. Felonies also tend to involve an act of violence.
The second difference between the two is the form of punishment that a convicted person can receive. Since felony crimes are viewed as more severe than misdemeanor offenses, it follows that their punishments are too.
If a person is convicted of a misdemeanor, they may have to pay criminal fines and could receive a jail sentence of no longer than one year. If a person is convicted of a felony, however, it can result in a prison sentence for at least one year or longer and the fines will be greater than those imposed for a misdemeanor.
In addition, there is a third possibility that a person may receive called a “wobbler.” A wobbler refers to a crime that falls between a misdemeanor and a felony offense. The circumstances of a case will dictate whether the defendant will be convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
Basically, if the crime is one of a non-violent nature and the defendant did not harm anyone in the process, then the court may decide to issue a punishment that is more in line with a misdemeanor sentence. On the other hand, if the crime is violent, the defendant is a repeat offender, and they hurt someone during the commission of the crime, then the wobbler will more likely result in a penalty similar to those given for felony offenses.
How Many Classes of Felonies Are There?
Felony offenses are generally classified based on the seriousness of the crime. Each state has its own statute that provides separate guidelines on how to categorize a particular felony offense in that state.
For example, some states may classify first-degree murder as either a Class A or Class 1 felony. These levels are reserved for the most serious types of offenses and are those crimes which can result in the maximum punishment.
The remaining classifications will continue in an orderly fashion (e.g., Class B or Class 2, Class C or Class 3, and so on). Basically, the most important things to remember about the degrees are that they help to determine a convicted defendant’s sentence, and the crimes lessen in severity the further away it is from the Class A or Class 1 level.
For instance, a defendant convicted of a Class E felony will receive a much lower sentence and has committed a less serious crime than a person whose crime falls under the Class A felony designation.
Can You Provide a List of Felony Charges?
The laws of a particular state and the circumstances surrounding a case are two major elements that often factor into whether a crime will be charged as a felony or not. However, there are some criminal charges that most states tend to classify as a felony offense.
The following is a general list of felony crimes:
- Property crimes: Grand theft, arson, and vandalism.
- Drug offenses: Distributing, selling, or trafficking drugs.
- Sex crimes: Sexual assault and human trafficking.
- Violent offenses: First-degree murder, second-degree murder, and robbery.
- White collar crimes: Embezzlement, securities fraud, and tax evasion.
What Factors Influence Felony Sentencing?
There are several factors that can influence the sentence for a felony conviction. Such factors can work both ways. For example, a judge may be more lenient when issuing a punishment for a first-time offender; especially, if the felony was a non-violent crime. In contrast, the judge will most likely not reduce a sentence if the defendant is a repeat offender and the felony committed resulted in serious harm to another person.
A sentence can also be reduced if the defendant raises a successful defense. For instance, if the defendant is charged with felony assault, but the victim knowingly consented to the act, then the defendant can assert consent as a defense and may potentially get their sentence reduced.
The laws of a state and the type of crime committed can also affect the sentencing a defendant receives. For example, there are certain crimes known as “wobblers” that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Which way the charges end up falling will depend on whether specific factors were present during commission of the crime.
For instance, if no aggravating factors exist (e.g., use of a deadly weapon, type of victim, etc.), then the defendant can argue that their sentence should be similar to those that apply to misdemeanors.
In addition to any criminal consequences, the defendant may also be faced with a civil lawsuit. This means that they may have to pay both criminal fines and civil damages. For example, a victim of domestic violence may press charges and sue the defendant for compensation. In this case, the defendant may be liable for compensating them for medical bills and lost wages.
However, if the defendant can show their actions were done in self-defense or some other defense that causes the plaintiff to lose or their claims to become questionable, then the defendant may be able to get their civil penalties reduced or dropped.
What is a Felony Expungement?
Getting a felony expunged (i.e., removed) from a criminal record is an extremely difficult task. The general rule of thumb is that the more serious the crime committed, the less likely a person can have it expunged. Thus, felonies such as sex crimes, first-degree murder, and child pornography are typically not eligible for expungement.
Some factors that make it more likely that the court will consider a request for expungement include if the person was a minor when the crime was committed, the nature of the crime charged, the amount of time that has passed since the conviction or arrest, and if they have completed all court-ordered requirements for their sentence.
Note that there is a difference between when a defendant gets arrested for a felony versus when they are charged with a felony. A felony arrest simply means that the suspect is in custody based on the belief that they committed a felony. On the other hand, a felony charge means that an official legal proceeding has been initiated against the person.
Although still not an easy feat, it is much more likely that a court will expunge an arrest for a felony than a felony charge.
What is a Felon?
A felon is a person who has been charged and convicted of a felony offense. This often means that they received a jail or prison sentence for at least one year, and possibly longer.
The legal penalties for felony convictions can be harsh, but what many people do not consider is the long-lasting impact that a conviction can have on a felon’s life; even after they have already served their sentence.
Generally speaking, a felony conviction will remain on a person’s criminal record for the rest of their life. Having a record will make it difficult to find a job, gain custody rights over children, and can take away the right to vote in elections.
Additionally, if a felon is charged and convicted of another crime in the future, their resulting punishment will most likely be more severe than their last (e.g., a longer prison sentence, higher fines, etc.).
Do I Need an Attorney If I’m Facing Felony Charges?
If you are facing charges for a felony offense, then you should strongly consider hiring a local criminal defense attorney for assistance. Your attorney will be able to explain how the laws in your state apply to your particular case, the consequences of a conviction, and the next steps you should take.
In addition, your attorney can help you prepare and file documents with the court for your case, and can provide representation on your behalf as well. Your attorney will also be able to determine if there are any defenses you can raise against the charges and whether there is a possibility to have your charges reduced or dropped.
Therefore, it would be in your best interest to consult an attorney. Without one, not only is there a higher risk of receiving a conviction, but you also miss out on the opportunity to argue for a lower sentence. As such, it is very likely that you could be looking at significant jail time and heavy criminal fines.