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Felony Charges

Felony charges are brought against a person or persons who commit a serious criminal act or omission that carries a greater punishment than a misdemeanor crime. Felony charges can be brought against a party for numerous types of serious crimes. The most common type of felony charges include: drug possession, aggravated assault (assault with a weapon), arson (setting a fire with the intention of causing damage), burglary, murder, and rape.

White collar crimes (property and financial crimes) and other non-violent crimes (such as possession of a weapon) may also be subject to felony charges. When felony charges result in conviction, the consequences can include jail time, probation, fines, community service, restitution, treatment, and loss of certain rights. Historically, felony charges were punishable by death or forfeiture of property.

In 2000, State courts convicted almost 925,000 people of the felony charges brought against them. The Federal court system convicted almost 60,000 people of felony charges. Of these individuals convicted of felony charges, 95 percent were convicted through guilty pleas and the other five percent were found guilty by a trial conviction.

The most common felony charges that led to conviction in 2000 were drug offenses (35 percent); property offenses, such as burglary, arson, fraud and forgery (28 percent); violent offenses, such as murder, rape or aggravated assault (19 percent); and weapon offenses or other non-violent offenses, such as escaping custody or receiving stolen property (18 percent). Marijuana felony charges accounted for 6.4 percent of the total convictions in 2000.

Forty percent of convicted felons will serve time in state prison, 28 percent in a local jail, and 32 percent will go straight to probation without any jail time. In 2000, the average sentence for state prison was 4.5 years and six months for local prison sentences with three years of probation. One third of all persons convicted on felony charges never actually serves jail time, but goes directly into a probation period.

In addition to jail time and probation, an individual convicted of felony charges may also be required to complete community service, drug or other treatment programs, pay punitive fines or restitution to an injured party, or suffer the loss of certain rights. A person convicted of felony charges can be divested of the right to bear arms, the right to vote, the right to take certain government positions or jobs that may compromise public safety, the right to serve in the Armed Forces, the right to serve on a Federal jury, and several other rights.

The laws governing felony charges and convictions vary from state to state and depend on the type of crime that was committed. If you have had felony charges brought against you, you have the legal right to an attorney who can protect your legal rights and options in a case.

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