What is a Felony?
In the United States, felony crimes and misdemeanor crimes are treated as two separate categories of offense, a distinction which has been eliminated or replaced in many other countries. This distinction has its roots in the common-law origins of US criminal code, and is used in most states even today.
From a practical standpoint, felonies are usually considered serious crimes, while misdemeanors are generally lesser offenses. Accordingly, a good rule-of-thumb is: offenses with sentences longer than 1 year of jail time are usually felonies, offenses with sentences less than a year but longer than 5 days are usually considered misdemeanors. However, not every state uses the felony-misdemeanor distinction system. New Jersey, for one, classifies crimes into 4 degrees of severity.
Because felonies and misdemeanors are determined by the seriousness of the crime, many felony offenses also have a similar, lesser misdemeanor “sibling.” Usually, it is mitigating circumstances that make the difference between a felony and misdemeanor charge.
Some crimes which are often considered felonies:
- Aggravated assault/battery
- Grand theft
Felonies, due to their serious nature, often have consequences not directly related to a criminal sentence. These so-called “collateral consequences” can include things such as difficulty finding work, inability to vote, prohibition from owning or buying firearms, or inability to run for or hold public office. It is easy to see that a felony conviction can easily have wide-ranging negative effects on the rest of your life.
If you have been accused of a crime, be it felony or misdemeanor, you need to contact the law office of San Jose criminal defense attorney Daniel Jensen at (408) 296-4100 for experienced legal representation in your case.