A felony is a classification of crimes that are generally considered to be especially dangerous or serious. Penalties for these more serious crimes generally involve a prison sentence greater than one year, and possible criminal fines. Crimes can be further categorized as either crimes against property, or crimes against a person.

Crimes against property involve crimes such as those directed at a person’s home, as well as personal property. Some common examples of felony crimes against property include:

  • Burglary;
  • Arson;
  • Embezzlement;
  • Larceny;
  • Robbery; and
  • False pretenses.

Crimes against the person are those that involve bodily harm or injury to another person. Some common examples of felony crimes against the person include:

  • False imprisonment;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Murder;
  • Manslaughter; and
  • Felony murder, which is a specific type of murder that occurs when the defendant commits an inherently dangerous felony such murdering an individual during the commission of a robbery.

Other examples of felony crimes include:

  • The sale and distribution of drugs;
  • Assault with a deadly weapon;
  • Sexual assault crimes, including failing to inform a partner of your HIV status; and
  • Some types of white collar crimes.

Thus, a felon is someone who has been formally tried and convicted of a felony. It is important to note that there is a big difference between felony arrest and a felony charge. A person who has been arrested on suspicion of a felony, but has not yet been charged with a felony, has not yet been proven guilty and cannot be considered a felon.

What Is the Difference Between a Felony Arrest and a Felony Charge?

Each state has its own laws regarding what is considered a felony crime, as opposed to what is considered a misdemeanor crime. However, as previously mentioned, a felony crime is generally one that is punishable by more than a year in prison.

Felony crimes are contrary to misdemeanor crimes, which are punishable by no more than one year spent in a county or state jail facility. There are some notable differences between a felony arrest and a felony charge.

A felony arrest simply consists of the police taking a person into custody on suspicion that that person has committed a crime. Felony arrest could take place before or after a felony charge has been issued. A felony charge is what begins the formal legal proceedings against the defendant, or the person accused of committing the felony crime. A district attorney brings formal accusations against the defendant before the court.

The exact felony charging procedure will likely vary from state to state. In general, there are two different procedures that may be utilized:

  • Grand Jury: A group of ordinary citizens are picked to be part of a jury, and they will be presented with evidence against the accused. The grand jury then uses that information to determine whether or not the accused can be charged with a crime. It is not a determination of guilt, but rather that there is enough evidence to bring the defendant to trial; and
  • Prosecutor’s Complaint: States that do not utilize the grand jury system will have the prosecutor write a document that accuses the defendant of a crime. This is known as an information, or a complaint, and it is presented to a judge. In order to ensure that there is enough evidence to actually go to trial, the court will hold a preliminary hearing in which they examine and consider all of the available evidence and use that evidence to determine whether or not the defendant should be brought to trial.

Do Felons Have Restricted Rights? Can a Felony Be Expunged From a Criminal Record?

Being charged with a felony may affect or reduce a person’s civil rights. An example of this would be how some states prohibit felons from possessing weapons or even body armor, especially if the person was convicted of any violent crimes. Some states also restrict a person’s voting rights once they have been charged with a felony. However, such restrictions could vary according to state criminal statutes.

Felony convictions may also affect other areas of a felon’s life. Some examples of this include being awarded child custody and visitation rights, as well as the inability to be hired for some specific jobs. In some cases, restricted or removed rights may be restored once the felon has served their sentence. Expungement may also be an option in some specific cases.

Expungement refers to a process in which a person convicted of certain crimes may have the record of those crimes cleared or sealed. This renders the record off limits to all, except for law enforcement personnel, in order to avoid some of the issues associated with having a felony on your criminal record.

Some requirements to qualify for expungement generally include a waiting period of five to ten years after the last conviction, as well as maintaining a good record after the last conviction. Meaning, they cannot have more criminal charges after their last felony offense.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help With Felony Issues?

A skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you understand how your state’s specific laws could affect your individual rights if you are facing felony charges. The attorney can determine if there are any defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case, as well as represent you in court as needed.