In most U.S. states, felonies are classified in different ways according to the offense committed. Understanding the different classifications would help you understand what to expect when you are faced with a criminal charge. It also makes the work of the Gilbert criminal defense lawyers you hire easy. This way, they can focus on helping you to fight the allegations against you, as well as help you to recognize the chances for a favorable outcome.
What is a First Degree or Third-degree Felony
To begin, it’s important to note that a felony is quite different from a misdemeanor. While most crimes are commonly referred to as a felony, they aren’t. Technically, a felony refers to more serious crimes that can lead to serious legal penalties, such as an increased jail term. On the other hand, misdemeanors are considered to be less serious than felonies and may incur lesser penalties. Misdemeanors don’t often lead to a jail term, and when they do, it is usually below 12 months.
Felonies can be classified according to the following categories
- Capital felonies
- First-degree felonies
- Second-degree felonies
- Third-degree felonies
Generally, the less the numerical designation attached to a crime, the more severe the crime is. Hence, a first-degree crime is considered the most severe form of crime, and it carries more legal consequences than a second-degree or a third-degree crime.
Some examples of first-degree crime include:
- Drug trafficking
- Aggravated child abuse
- Aggravated battery on an officer
- Cannabis trafficking
- Trafficking stolen goods
- Burglary with assault or battery
- Aggravated child abuse
The legal penalties for a first-degree crime may include up to 30 years in prison or life imprisonment and more than $10,000 in fines. Usually, the penalties are more severe if the defendant has previous convictions, although penalties may differ across different states.
In some states, a capital felony is considered higher than a first-degree felony and may incur more severe penalties, such as a minimum prison term of 25 years, a life imprisonment sentence without parole, and a death sentence.
Burgling an apartment, DUI manslaughter, robbery, aggravated battery, selling cocaine, leaving an accident scene involving death, etc., are all considered second-degree felonies. The legal penalties may include a minimum jail term of 2 years and may go up to 25 years of imprisonment, and a fine of up to $10,000. Sometimes, second-degree felonies can be elevated to first-degree felonies. For example, intoxicated manslaughter may be considered first-degree if the victim is a police officer. Also, if the defendant has a previous criminal record, a second-degree felony may also be elevated to a first-degree felony.
A third-degree felony may include less severe variations of a first and second-degree felony. It may also include crimes such as grand theft, possession of burglary tools, forgery, bribery, intoxication assault, unemployment compensation fraud, violently resisting an officer, indecency with a child, child abandonment, possession of up to 5 pounds of marijuana, etc. third-degree felonies may incur the following penalties.
- Fines up to $5,000 or lesser
- Possible jail-term
- House arrest
- No-contact orders
- Random drug testing
- Alcohol prohibition
Which is Worse: A 1st Degree or a 3rd Degree Criminal Charge
According to federal laws and the legal penalties for criminal charges, a first-degree criminal charge is worse than a third-degree criminal charge.
In addition to the jail term and heavy fines associated with criminal charges, there are also other collateral consequences involved in a conviction which can make life difficult for a person even after they have served the legal consequences of the crime. Depending on the severity of the crime, and the conviction, other consequences they may face include:
- Losing the right to vote
- Being ineligible for some professional certifications
- Being prohibited from owning or possessing firearms
- Being ineligible for federal student loans
- Having a restraining order
- Having a criminal history
The repercussions of a criminal charge are far-reaching. They often go beyond the legal penalties of the crime as provided in the state or federal law. While the affected individuals may satisfy the demands of the law, and justice is served, it is often difficult for society to forget their criminal history. This makes it even more difficult for them to get a job or have access to some basic facilities, hence plunging them into more significant financial hardships. That is why you must contact a criminal defense attorney to defend your case and fight for your rights once you are charged with a criminal offense.
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