Few things are more disheartening than facing the possibility of being charged with a felony. So many thoughts will run through your head: Will I go to prison? If so, for how long? Is there anything I can do to avoid this? Will I be able to get a job afterwards?
Before you get an aneurysm by worrying about all the potential scenarios, let’s take a closer look at what being charged with a felony means, and what are your options for less severe consequences.
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What are the differences between a misdemeanor and a felony? | Felony vs Misdemeanor
There are two categories of crimes: Misdemeanors and felonies.
What is a Misdemeanor?
A person who commits a less serious offense (such as battery, shoplifting, driving with a suspended license, petit theft, vandalism, prostitution, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, indecent exposure, domestic violence) will be charged with a misdemeanor. These can be of the first degree or second degree:
Misdemeanor of the first degree: The punishment for a misdemeanor in the first degree would be up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.00.
Misdemeanor of the second degree: The punishment for a misdemeanor in the second degree would be up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.00.
What is a Felony?
A person who commits a serious offense will be charged with a felony. These can be a capital felony, or a felony in the first, second, or third degree.
Crimes that are classified as felonies include treason, murder, manslaughter, arson, kidnapping; aggravated assault, battery, or stalking, carjacking, home invasion robberies, robberies, sexual battery (rape), aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging a bomb.
Sometimes, a person who commits a misdemeanor can be charged with a felony if he or she is a repeat offender.
Capital felonies: Capital felonies are punishable by death. Some inmates spend decades in death row. While they wait for their death penalty, they spend their life in prison. Punishment can also include a fine of up to $15,000.
First degree felonies: These include a sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00.
Second degree felonies: The sentence for a second degree felony is up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Third degree felonies: These include a sentence of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
What happens if you get convicted of a felony?
1. You lose rights: The list of how your life would change is long. You know how people in this country love to talk about our constitutional rights? Say goodbye to a couple of them.
When you’re convicted of a felony, you won’t have a right to bear arms anymore. You also won’t be able to vote.
2. You’d go to prison: You’d also go to prison. Let’s make an important distinction here. Jail is where people go when they are sentenced to a year or less of imprisonment. Prison is where an inmate will stay when they are serving a long-term sentence.
Since a stay in prison is longer, they typically have better facilities than jails. Inmates also get to work within the prison: doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning. They can also attend religious services and classes within the prison.
This doesn’t mean that it’s a pleasant experience. It just means inmates get more structure than at a jail. You’d also be housed with people convicted of committing serious offenses.
3. You’ll have a hard time having a regular life afterwards: Most places of employment won’t hire a convicted felon. Same goes for apartment complexes and private landlords renting out a place to live. And if you decide to go back to school after a prison sentence, you won’t qualify for financial aid. Good luck finding a date, too.
How to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor
Now that you have an overview of the differences between a felony and a misdemeanor, you can understand how beneficial it would be for you to get a felony charge to be reduced to a lesser offense.
There are several ways to do this.
Some crimes could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. For example, punching someone in the face is a battery. It’s also a misdemeanor. Yet, if you commit a battery using a deadly weapon, then it becomes aggravated battery and it would be a felony.
Whenever someone gets charged with a crime, the prosecutor has to prove that all elements of the crime were committed. This means going to trial, taking witness testimony, introducing evidence, and convincing a jury. A person may be able to bypass that entire process by pleading guilty to a lesser charge (e.g., pleading guilty to battery when facing aggravated battery charges).
Cooperating With the State
Another way to get a lesser charge would be to cooperate with the prosecution. If you committed a crime together with other people, and you are willing to help the State gather evidence against the other participants, you may be able to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor.
The above are only examples, and whether they are viable or not will greatly depend on the circumstances of the case.
Also, as mentioned before, a repeat offender of a misdemeanor may be charged with a felony; or someone who was charged with a misdemeanor may later face felony charges as the State continues to gather evidence of the crime.
Contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins for a Criminal Defense Free Consultation
Facing a felony charge is serious business. Life as you know it would be in jeopardy, and it wouldn’t only affect you, but also your loved ones.
Call us to talk about your case. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to plead to a lesser charge to have your sentence reduced.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.