Practice Center - Criminal
The most serious types of crimes are referred to as felonies. The usual definition is that a felony is any crime that may be punished by more than a year's imprisonment, or death. A crime that has a maximum sentence of a monetary fine, or a short period of confinement in the local jail is not a felony. A statute may not specifically label an offense as a felony, but the punishment defines the offense as a felony. State criminal codes may call a crime an "aggravated" or "gross" misdemeanor, but the offense calls for a sentence of more than one year in the state penal system. Those offenses will be treated as felonies. When crimes charged are more serious, the need for an experienced criminal defense attorney to help a defendant through the process becomes even greater.
Felonies include both violent and non-violent crimes, such as grand theft, embezzlement of large sums of money, first degree assault, or assault that causes severe bodily harm, all degrees of murder, rape, racketeering, large scale fraud, kidnapping, and serious drug crimes.
Additionally, special procedures apply when the charge is a felony. If a defendant is too poor to afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint one to represent him or her, without charge. An attorney is not always appointed for less serious charges. Similarly, the defendant must usually be present for all or most parts of the court process when the charge is a felony. Some state laws require that felonies be charged only upon an indictment handed down by a grand jury, while lesser offenses may be charged by a written "complaint," or "information." The rules of evidence in some states provide that a defendant's or witness' testimony may be disregarded if he or she has been guilty of a felony, but the rule does not apply if he or she was guilty of only a less serious offense. Most importantly, some states have so-called "three strikes" laws, which provide that a person will be sentenced to life in prison on his or her third felony conviction. Three strikes laws do not apply to misdemeanor convictions. It is easy to see why a person charged with a felony needs the zealous representation of an experienced criminal defender.
Substantive Law of Felonies
Designating a crime as a felony may affect other charges, as well as the procedural law. For example, if an accidental death occurs during the commission of a felony, some states classify the crime as murder, while the crime is manslaughter if the death occurs during the commission of a lesser offense. Similarly, the common law defines the crime of burglary as entering another person's house without their permission, for the purpose of committing a felony in the house. If the purpose for entering was not the commission of a felony, the crime was not burglary. A conspiracy often will be punished more severely if the conspiracy was to commit a felony, instead of conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor.
Consequences of Felony Convictions
If a person is convicted of a felony, he or she may find that his or her rights may be restricted more than those of a person convicted of a misdemeanor. Convicted felons usually serve more time incarcerated, and the conditions of their incarceration generally are more severe. There are many other consequences, as well. In many states, people convicted of felonies may not serve on juries. They may lose their right to vote, or to engage in some professions, like teaching or law. Felons are often prohibited from serving in the military, or owning firearms. In addition, as noted above, many states have so-called "three strikes" laws that require that a person be sentenced to life upon his or her third felony conviction. Experienced defense counsel, will help you not only before and during a trial, but can make sure you may be able to return to a normal life as soon as you can.
The consequences of a felony conviction are severe, and can last for a long time. The punishment is severe, and there are other implications of the conviction that can stay in a person's life for many years to come. You need to protect your future. If you are facing felony criminal charges, contact an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys without delay.
Copyright ©1994-2005 FindLaw, a Thomson Business
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
Copyright © 2006 Lapin & Viorst, P.C. All rights reserved. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement.