If you have been charged with a felony crime or are the subject of a criminal investigation, you should hire a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Felonies are the most serious of crimes, and if found guilty you face at least a year in prison.
Misdemeanor & Felony Basics
In the United States, crimes are broken into two broad categories: A misdemeanor is a less serious crime and a felony is a more serious crime.
Examples of misdemeanors would include theft, disorderly conduct, prostitution, trespassing and vandalism. Examples of felonies would include murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, arson, rape and terrorism. In some instances, a crime may be classified as both a misdemeanor and a felony depending on its severity. For example, DUI/DWI and assault can result in either misdemeanor or felony charges.
Within each broad category, states may break down crimes into subcategories, sometimes known as degrees or classes, based on the relative severity of the crime.
Consequences of a Felony Conviction
Generally speaking, if you are found guilty of a felony, you face at least a year in prison. However, prison sentences can be much longer, and may even result in the death penalty. You may also have to pay fines or other restitution.
Not surprisingly, misdemeanor convictions carry less serious sentences. If found guilty of a misdemeanor, you would face less than a year of imprisonment, and might have a sentence that does not include any jail time. Punishment for a misdemeanor crime can also include fines, probation and/or community service.
In addition, convicted felons face long-term consequences even after they’ve fulfilled their punishment. Felons can lose the right to vote, work in certain fields, obtain certain licenses and serve on juries.
In some instances, felony convictions will publicly follow you for the rest of your life. People convicted of sexual offenses, for example, are included in state databases that can be easily accessed and searched. Sexual offenders may also be required to tell neighbors about their crimes before moving into a new home.
Reasons to Hire a Felony Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you’ve been investigated, questioned, arrested or charged with a felony crime, you should hire a felony attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can:
Explain your legal rights
Accompany you to all court appearances, including your arraignment, pre-trial hearings and at trial
Collect and examine evidence, and interview witnesses in an effort to defend you at trial
With your permission, attempt to negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors, which would allow you to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for a lesser punishment
Discuss your legal options during the criminal process, explain the advantages and disadvantages of each option and help you decide which options to pursue
Because of the serious consequences of a felony conviction, you should speak to a felony criminal defense attorney as soon as you learn you’re the subject of a criminal investigation or immediately after being arrested.