Facing criminal charges can mean the upheaval of your world and your family. You may have months or years of anxiety while both sides collect evidence and prepare their cases, and the outcome can be uncertain. If the charges against you are misdemeanors, you may expect penalties that include fines, community service or several months in jail. If you are accused of a felony, it is much more complicated.
Felonies are serious crimes that often have long-term ramifications both for the victims and the accused. A felony can be a white collar crime, such as embezzlement of a substantial amount of money. Some property crimes are felonies, like arson. Many drug crimes fall into the felony category, depending on the amount of drugs in question and other factors. Most felonies, however, are violent crimes against other people.
The crime and the punishment
A felony resulting from a violent act does not have to involve intentional or premeditated murder. A drunk driving accident that results in the serious injury or death of another may be a felony. In fact, in many states, multiple drunk driving convictions within a certain time period may be felonies even if no accident occurs. An assault charge may be a felony if the intent is to cause serious injury even if no such injury occurs.
Depending on the circumstances of the crimes, penalties for felony convictions may include any of the following:
- Imprisonment for at least one year, perhaps even decades
- Thousands in fines and fees
- Mandatory restitution for financial losses of the victims
- The loss of certain constitutional rights, such as the right to vote and the right to own or possess a firearm
- A criminal record that may complicate your efforts to obtain work, housing or federal benefits
- Exclusion from eligibility for certain professional licenses
- Deportation for those who are not citizens of the U.S.
- The possibility of life without parole for certain violent crimes
- The death penalty
Most states have abolished the death penalty, including West Virginia. However, the federal government still upholds the use of capital punishment for serious felonies, especially for murders authorities consider especially heinous. Even if the penalties you are facing are not a matter of life or death, you still have much to lose if a court convicts you. Building a solid defense strategy is critical to protecting your rights and your future.