A felony is a type of criminal offense that is punishable by large fines and a prison sentence of longer than one year (usually served in a state prison as opposed to a county jail). Felonies are considered to be much more serious than misdemeanors or infractions, and often involve terrible acts.
In contrast, misdemeanors normally only result in one year or less of imprisonment (usually in a county jail) and lower fines than those associated with felony charges. Out of the three, infractions and/or citations result in the least amount of penalties and usually just require a small fine to be paid.
There are a broad range of crimes that fall under the definition of a felony offense. Some common examples of felonies include:
- Various degrees of homicide (e.g., first-degree murder and second-degree murder);
- Grand theft (like grand theft auto);
- Sexual assault;
- Drug crimes (e.g., selling, trafficking, or distributing);
- Property crimes (such as criminal damage to property);
- Some forms of domestic violence;
- Using a device to cheat while gambling or teaching others how to cheat;
- Serious cases of assault and battery;
- Involuntary servitude;
- Possession of a firearm or other kinds of illegal weaponry;
- Drunk driving charges that result in death or serious bodily injury to another;
- Kidnapping or human trafficking;
- Interference with custody or guardian rights; and
- Many kinds of white-collar crimes (e.g., receipt of stolen property).
Although the term “felony” is usually associated with violent crimes, there are several crimes that are categorized as felonies, but are non-violent types of crimes (e.g., embezzlement).
Finally, while felony charges may sometimes be sealed or expunged from one’s criminal record, it is extremely difficult to do so and can take years before a person will be considered eligible to have it removed.
What are Some Legal Penalties for Felony Charges?
As discussed above, the legal consequences for committing a felony can lead to a prison sentence that lasts longer than one year.
The number of years for being convicted of a felony can range on the relatively shorter end of anywhere from 5 to 25 years, or could last for an entire lifetime (e.g., a life sentence without parole).
Also, if certain factors are present either during the commission of the crime or as part of the case, then it could impact the amount of fines or length of imprisonment that the defendant receives.
For example, if this is not the first time that the defendant has committed a crime (i.e., a repeat offender), then their sentence may be longer than one given to a defendant who has no history of a criminal record. Multiple charges or aggravating factors can also cause an increase in penalties.
As for the criminal fines issued for a felony charge, they generally involve very high dollar amounts. In some cases, a defendant may be required to pay criminal retribution, which is payment for the losses caused to the victim.
Additionally, there are some states where a felony charge could result in the loss of certain rights, such as the right to own a firearm, the right to vote in an election, and the right to obtain custody of a child.
Are There Any Legal Defenses for Felonies?
There are some criminal defenses that a defendant may be able to use against a felony charge. For instance, self-defense is one of the most common types of criminal defenses used for cases involving felony assault and battery. Some other examples of felony defenses include:
- Involuntary intoxication;
- Improper police action, procedure, or entrapment;
- Mistake of fact or accident;
- Insufficient evidence;
- Adequate provocation;
- Insanity or diminished capacity; and
- Affirmative defenses (e.g., the suspect was not the person who committed the crime).
It is important to note that the facts of a case must support the defendant’s defense. In other words, the defendant cannot assert a defense that would not match up with what happened in the case or would not be available against the type of crime committed.
The defendant can demonstrate their defense is supported through physical means (such as documents or weapons); witness testimony; video, audio, or photographic files; and various other items of evidence.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Assistance with Felony Charges?
As previously mentioned, felony crimes will frequently lead to some very serious legal consequences. If you or your loved one is facing criminal charges for a felony offense, then you should strongly consider hiring a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you with valuable legal advice, can help you to prepare your case, and can provide representation on your behalf in court.
In addition, an attorney will also be able to determine whether there are any defenses available for your case and can make sure that your rights as a defendant are sufficiently protected.