What Makes A Felony Charge Different From Other Criminal Allegations?

In the criminal legal world, there are three classes of offenses. At the bottom are infractions, covering mundane and fine-worthy things like speeding tickets and noise ordinance violations. In the middle, you'll find misdemeanors, charges that may carry jail time up to one year. Finally, there is the top tier of felonies.

What distinguishes felonies from other offenses? Here are three things all felony lawyers want their clients to understand.

Jail Time

The simplest feature of felony punishment is that a convicted person faces jail time. Many U.S. states classify at least some offenses as felonies in ways that largely align with the federal criminal justice system. Foremost, this means the sentence for a felony carries at least one year of imprisonment. That can go as high as life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and the most extreme felonies in many states carry the death penalty.

In other words, the state isn't playing around when they accuse someone of a felony offense. A felony always carries jail time; felons rarely enjoy the possibility of a suspended sentence, pending counseling, or participation in a program.

Post-Prison Restrictions

Not all felonies carry extensive post-prison restrictions, but some do. These can be very onerous. People convicted of sexual assault felonies, for example, may end up on lifetime registered offender lists available to the public. Violent and gun-related felonies usually lead to post-imprisonment prohibitions on owning weapons of any kind. Fiduciary felonies frequently leave convicts unable to seek jobs in positions of public trust, effectively banning them from government, financial, or administrative work.

Given these restrictions, some clients and felony lawyers see simply plea bargaining cases down to misdemeanors as winning. While you might still do jail time, you'll at least have some kind of life after prison.

Felony Reporting Requirements

Many employment, loan, and rent applications ask questions about felony convictions. Legally, a person convicted of a felony must answer these questions with a yes. This can make it harder or impossible to rent a place, get a loan, or obtain employment. Also, the reporting of felony convictions automatically goes into major databases.

If a potential employer conducts a criminal background check, the person may never get a chance to explain what happened. Instead, the employer might see the flag and eliminate the person from the pool of candidates. Even if the court expunges your record at a later time, these records may linger in out-of-date databases.

To learn more about handling your case, reach out to felony lawyers.