Felonies are considered to be the most serious class of offense in the U.S. They are typically separated into distinct classes to ensure repeat felony offenders receive more severe punishments as compared to those who are first-time offenders. Felonies are punishable by a fine, imprisonment of more than one year or both.
Approximately 6.1 million Americans cannot vote due to felony disenfranchisement. 2.2 million people are in prison and jail. Nearly 469,545 people were incarcerated in 2015 for drug offenses. Even during times when crime rates have declined in the country, the number of individuals being sentenced for property and violent crimes continues to increase.
Types of Felonies
Felonies are classified into three categories:
2) misdemeanors and
Of these, felonies are the most serious. The types of crime that are usually considered to be a felony include arson, burglary, aggravated assault, drug related crimes, domestic violence, DUI, manslaughter, rape, murder, fraud, theft, robbery, and vandalism. Anyone convicted of a felony is described as a felon.
The length of punishment varies according to the type of felony. However, both the Federal Government and most States classify felonies as crimes that carry incarceration for a minimum of 12 months. For felonies like murder, the punishment may be a death penalty.
In general felonies are divided into two broad categories – crimes against property and crimes against people.
Felony Charge for Crimes Against People
Assault is one of the most common types of felonies. It is an unlawful attempt to incite or direct violence at another person with the intent of hurting them. An assault is an act that is mainly intended to scare or harm another person. An open threat of harm combined with the perceived ability to carry out the threat can be considered an assault even if the victim is not injured. An assault can quickly turn into a felony when the offender tries to cause harm to another person or uses a deadly weapon to carry out the assault.
Criminal battery is said to have occurred when one uses forces against the victim that can result in unlawful contact or harm. Unlike assault, in a criminal battery, contact with the victim is not required.
Domestic violence is said to occur when one member of the household abuses (verbally or physically) another individual. Domestic violence may take place in several forms including emotional abuse, sexual abuse or even stalking. It is a general perception that domestic violence is limited to couples but that is not the case. Domestic violence can occur between roommates, parent and children etc.
Drug related crime is often classified as a felony when the individual possess an illicit drug or intends to sell it. In some cases, possession of even a small amount of drug may result in a felony (e.g. heroin or methamphetamine). One can also be charged with a drug related crime if drugs are found in the home or the car, because the law assumes that there was an intent to sell.
DUI – In many states operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a drug can be a felony depending on how many times the offender has been charged. In addition, if there is any injury to another person or damaged property while under the influence, it will be a felony.
Kidnapping is a felony when you hold another person against his or her will.
Manslaughter may be voluntary (intent to kill) or involuntary (no intent to kill). For example, if someone is driving under the influence of alcohol and kills someone, it is considered involuntary manslaughter. For voluntary manslaughter the time is also of importance because the crime should have happened within a certain time frame following the dispute.
Other felonies include murder, rape and robbery.
Crimes against Property
Arson in an act of voluntarily setting a fire to a property – usually for insurance fraud.
Burglary is the unlawful entry in an empty building to steal. Theft is when you unlawfully take another individual’s things without the intention of returning them.
Fraud is when you steal sums of money. This usually involves a governmental agency or a business.
Vandalism is destruction of government properties like monuments, national parks or government offices.
Felonies and Penalties
The penalties on felonies depend on each individual state and they are classified by numerous labels like 1st degree, 2nd degree, etc. Other states use ascending letters like class A, class B, etc. In general, the higher the class or degree of the felony, the more severe is the punishment. It may include both incarceration and a monetary penalty.
The sentencing also depends on how serious the crime was and the individual’s past criminal history. But the important thing to remember is that a felony means a minimum sentence of at least 12 months.
Long-term Consequences of a Felony Charge
Being convicted of a felony does have long term repercussions which the felon experiences once he/she is released from prison. Some long-term consequences could include:
- Deportation for non-citizens
- Inability to vote
- Inability to own any firearms
- Ineligibility to run for any type of public office at any level
- Difficulty in getting professional licenses
- Inability to serve on any jury
Policies and practices related to felonies have been examined over the years and efforts have been made to eliminate inequity in any form. However, a lot still needs to be done. Excessive lengthy sentences need to be reduced, racial inequity has to be addressed, barriers for individuals with criminal records need to be minimized and resources have to shift from putting people in jail to preventing that these incidents occur in the first place. The goal should be to decrease crime and increase public safety while ensuring that nobody is harmed, abused or robbed. Crimes that are harmful for society must and should be punished, but at The Jeffcoat Firm, we strive to achieve justice for all our clients and play our part in creating a system that is fairer and just and where public resources are utilized and where those who have paid their debt are given the ability to start afresh.
Mr. Jeffcoat, a native of the Columbia area, founded the law firm in 1999. Mr. Jeffcoat got his undergraduate degree at Wofford College in 1994, majoring in Political Economy and Philosophy, and then went to the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he received his J.D. in 1997. After working in two law firms following his graduation from law school, Jeffcoat ventured out on his own to launch The Jeffcoat Firm in March of 1999.