Instant Court Case Lookup
The following is for information purposes only
There are different types of felony crimes committed in the United States every year.
Unlike misdemeanor crimes, felony crimes are much more severe. Usually, the punishment for a felony crime depends on the severity of the crime committed.
Those that face a felony charge are advised to enlist the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney.
What Is a Felony?
A felony is the most serious kind of crime that can be commited in the United States. Felons often face harsher sentences, such more than one year in a federal or state prison. Even if a felon receives a shorter sentence, the violation is still considered a felony.
Felons may face other punishment such as a loss of voting rights, no longer being able to serve on a jury, potential losses of professional licenses, expensive fines, and continued difficulty finding housing or getting jobs.
Repeat felons face harsh punishments because the sentencing laws take into account their criminal history.
Some felonies include probation periods. The court can also impose fines based on the criminal statute.
What Are the Classes of Felonies?
Felony offenses are usually categorized based on the seriousness of the crime. Every state has a statute that provides guidelines on characterizing a particular felony offense in that state.
There are five classes of felonies which include:
- Class A - This is a classification reserved for the most severe crimes. The punishment is life imprisonment or death.
- Class B - The penalty for this class is incarceration for 25 years or more.
- Class C - The sentence is incarceration for less than 25 years but 10 or more years.
- Class D - The punishment is incarceration for less than 10 years but 5 or more years.
- Class E - The penalty is incarceration for less than 5 years but more than 1 year.
Each state has a penal code. Every state also has its view of how much punishment a particular felony crime deserves. In one state, an offense considered a Class A felony may be regarded as a Class B felony in another.
What Are the Different Types of Felonies?
Here are some common felonies in the United States:
- Drug-related crimes - includes the sale, possession, use, or making of drugs. There are many factors to take into consideration for drug related felonies and they often vary from state to state. These factors can include the type of drug and the amount being sold or distributed.
- Property crimes - includes theft, destruction, or arson among other possibile crimes against property.
- Weapons violations include having a concealed weapon, for example, a gun without the proper license.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) - includes alcohol or any other mind-altering substance. Many factors are considered in these cases, such as intoxication levels, any injuries to other parties, or repeated offenses.
- Violent crimes can include crimes like murder, rape, assault, and armed robbery.
- Disorderly conduct - being a public nuisance can be considered a felony crime. False reports of a fire or other emergency can also be considered a public disturbance.
- Liquor law violations - selling alcohol to minors is a crime and is taken very seriously by courts.
- Offenses against the family - crimes against relatives or significant others. They include assault, harassment, stalking, and disorderly conduct.
How Do Felony Cases Work?
Felony cases are handled differently from other types of cases. A felony case progresses through the court system according to certain steps. Not every case follows all the steps.
Most cases end before they reach the trial stage. The steps are as follows:
Initiation of charges
Some felony cases commence when the United States Attorney or an Assistant United States Attorney, working with law enforcement, files a criminal complaint before a United States Magistrate.
The complaint is a statement made under oath of facts that can support probable cause that the defendant has committed an offense against the laws of the United States.
If the complaint is accepted, a summons or arrest warrant may be issued for the defendant. Interviews with victims and witness testimony could be taken into consideration beore filing the complaint.
The first hearing after the defendant's arrest is known as the first appearance. Witnesses aren't necessary at this hearing. The defendant is made aware of their rights and the charges against them.
After this, the defendant makes arrangements for legal representation - with help if needed. Finally, the court determines whether to release the defendant on bail.
During the preliminary hearing the United States Attorney is required to provide sufficient evidence against the defendant.
It is not necessary for an attorney to prove that the defendant is guilty of the crime during this phase. The court may subpoena witnesses to testify in this hearing.
Grand jury hearings
A grand jury consists of 23 citizens from the same judicial district who examine the evidence against the defendants. This is where witnesses take an oath and record their testimony. The Grand Jury decides whether the case should be prosecuted after hearing the evidence presented by the Assistant United States Attorney.
Arraignment on the indictment
An arraignment is where the magistrate formally informs the defendant of the charges found in the indictment, and the court reviews their bail conditions. At this hearing, the judge or magistrate sets the trial date.
Hearings on motions
Before a trial can commence, there may be motions made by the defendant or the country. These may be motions to suppress evidence, compel discovery, or resolve other legal matters.
The final stage is the last hearing called a trial, where the jury determines the innocence or guilt of the defendant.
If found guilty, the next action is sentencing. The judge considers the facts in the case before deciding on a fitting sentence to impose.
Where Are Felony Records Found?
Accessing felony records doesn't have to be as hard as it once was. These days, you can find felony records in a number of ways:
- Online access - Today, you can find most documents in federal courts electronically using a system called Case Management/Electronic Case Files. You can access these records via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records service or PACER.
- From the courthouse - If the records you're looking for aren't available online, you'll have to visit the courthouse where the felony case was filed or heard. Get in touch with the clerk's office in the county where the case is heard, and they'll advise you on how to get a copy of the document.
Those who face felony criminal charges, hiring a criminal defense attorney is the best thing to do. Without one, it's hard to argue for a lower sentence and there's a higher risk of a conviction.