Felonies are the most serious criminal offenses you can commit, which means a conviction can change your life forever. Not only are you facing the possibility of a long prison sentence and steep fines, but also the permanent loss of certain freedoms. This is why anybody charged with a felony needs a skilled criminal defense attorney such as the team at Cannon & Associates to handle their case.
What is A Felony?
In the United States, crimes are classified as either felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions based on the perceived seriousness of the offense. Of the three, felonies are considered the worst and often carry the toughest penalties.
A felony is a criminal offense punishable by at least one year in prison. When someone is charged with a felony, the crime typically involves an element of violence that is considered a threat to society.
The laws of a particular state and the circumstances surrounding the case are two factors that have significant influence on whether a crime is charged as a felony or not. However, some criminal offenses are almost always classified as felonies in most states. This includes:
- Violent crimes
- Homicide offenses (first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter)
- Robbery and burglary
- Serious sexual offenses (rape, child molestation, child pornography, human trafficking)
- Drug crimes (manufacturing, distribution, sale, and trafficking of controlled substances)
- Property crimes (arson, grand theft, and malicious destruction of property)
- White collar crimes (embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion, identity theft, and misrepresentation)
On the other hand, crimes that do not reach the level of felony are categorized as misdemeanors and infractions. If a person is convicted of a misdemeanor, he or she will likely have to pay a fine and serve a jail term no longer than one year.
Different Types of Felony
The majority of states rank felonies in order of severity – from the most serious to the least. Some states employ a letter classification system depending on the maximum and minimum sentence, while others use a level or degree system. For example, a first degree felony in the State of Ohio would be equivalent to a Class A felony in another state.
Still, some states forgo classification altogether and, instead, determine a penalty based on the individual offense.
In states with Class A to D ranking, Class A felonies are considered the most severe. These crimes come with life-changing repercussions such as $1,000,000 in fine or life imprisonment, often without the possibility of parole. Crimes that typically reach this level include first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, rape, and arson.
On the contrary, Class D felonies are the least serious and carry with them much lesser punishments. Crimes like jumping bail, solicitation, impersonating a police officer, and ownership of a weapon as a convicted felon typically fall under Class D felony. These offenses can carry a fine of $1,000 to $100,000 depending on the severity of the offense, while the prison time can be anywhere between one to five years.
6 Ways A Felony Conviction Affects Your Life
If you think that the end of your felony sentences also means the end of your suffering; think again.
Anybody convicted of felony ends up with a permanent criminal record. Aside from the potential jail time, the conviction carries far-reaching collateral consequences that will impact your life even after you have served your time, especially in the following aspects:
1. Civil Rights
Citizens of the United States are entitled to fundamental rights and liberties. Among these are the freedom of speech and religion, the right to bear arms, the right to vote, etc. A person convicted of felony, however, loses some of these rights. He or she will no longer be able to vote, hold a public office, serve on a jury, and own or possess firearms.
2. Employment Opportunities
It can be very difficult to land a job with a felony on your record. Most employers are weary about hiring someone with a criminal record, especially if it’s for a violent crime or sex crime.
Moreover, a felony conviction may also prevent you from working in a specific field or obtaining a professional license. State boards require applicants for licenses to practice medicine, law, or real estate to be of sound moral character, which means that having a felony on your records could bar your eligibility.
3. Student Loans and Financial Aid
Apart from having a tough time finding a job, many felons also find it challenging to attend college and get a degree.
Individuals convicted of felony who are looking to further their studies may not be eligible for student loans and financial aid. This is usually the case for those who have been found guilty of possession or selling controlled substances. As such, they’ll find it even more difficult to obtain opportunities that could help them offset their criminal record.
4. Housing and Federal Assistance
Convicted criminals (especially those whose crimes involved narcotics, sexual assault, or violence) struggle to rent a place or secure housing after their release. Like employers, landlords often conduct background checks on potential tenants. Some of them may not be willing to lease or rent to someone with a criminal record, and there are currently no rules or laws that prevent them from doing so.
In addition, convicted felons are not qualified to receive food stamps, housing assistance, and other forms of federal benefits, making it even harder for them to survive life after prison.
5. International Travel
This may come as a surprise, but traveling outside the country can be very difficult for convicted felons.
Passports are required for international travel and the government can reject your passport application if they see that you were convicted of a felony in the past. Your destination country may also deny you a visa for the same reason.
6. Financial Repercussions
Getting charged for a felony can easily deplete your finances. For one, you’ll need to hire an experienced lawyer to represent you in court. And, the more time you spend in jail, the more money you’ll need to pay for fines and legal fees.
Furthermore, a felony conviction can affect your eligibility for a loan or mortgage. It can also affect your ability to obtain any forms of credit.
Expunging A Felony Record
Virtually every state in the country has enacted laws allowing persons to remove previous convictions from their records. This process of sealing arrests and convictions so it is no longer available for public access is referred to as expungement.
Expungement laws may help to mitigate the negative impact of having a criminal record, especially for felons. However, before former offenders are allowed to petition to seal or hide records of previous arrest and convictions, they must have satisfied certain conditions.
The court will likely consider a request for expungement if:
- The person was a minor during the time the crime was committed.
- A specific amount of time has passed since the conviction or arrest.
- The person has completed all the court-mandated requirements of the sentence.
- The request involves a felony arrest, not a felony charge or conviction.
Having a felony removed from a criminal record is an extremely difficult undertaking. The general rule is that the heavier the crime, the less likely it can be expunged. Serious criminal offenses such as murder, sex crimes, child pornography, and other highly-offensive (mostly Class A or Level 1 felonies) typically do not qualify for expungement.
Benefits of Expungement
The effects of an expungement can vary from state to state. In some states, the records are available for courts and law enforcement to review, but sealed from public view. In others, they can remain public but marked “dismissed.” But while the specifics may differ, what expungement basically does is protect your privacy as a former convict.
After an arrest or conviction is sealed, you are no longer required to disclose that information, whether you’re applying for a job or filling up forms. Your future employers or landlord will also not be able to see it if they decide to do a background check on you. As a result, you’ll be able to take advantage of educational, employment, housing, and other opportunities that were once unavailable to you because your arrest was a public record.
Are You Facing a Felony Charge?
Life is so much tougher for felons. The most basic of tasks like applying for a job or traveling to another country can be immensely challenging.
Having a felony on your record will haunt you for the rest of your days, and even if an expungement is possible, it’s not guaranteed and will take a lot of time and work. That being said, it is in the defendant’s best interest to fight the case and the collateral consequences while the case is still in court rather than after conviction.
A criminal defense attorney, one who is a specialist in the field, will help you navigate your plea options and identify any grounds for the dismissal or reduction of charges against you. A good representation will increase your chances of a better outcome.
Oklahoma, like many other states have strict laws concerning felonies and the impact of a felony conviction is far reaching beyond your criminal case. Whether you have been arrested on suspicion of a misdemeanor or felony charge or you are seeking an expungement for a criminal case, our team of Fierce Advocates™ can help.
Speak to an experienced Oklahoma criminal defense lawyer at Cannon & Associates for legal guidance. Complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL (405) 657-2323 for a free and confidential case evaluation.