What Happens When You Are Charged with Felony but Not Convicted
Felony charges, along with misdemeanor crimes fall under common criminal charges. But what is the implication of being charged with a felony, or what should you expect to happen from such charges? If you’ve been charged with a felony, maneuvering the legal process can get quite complex; that is why you need help from a certified law firm. For this reason, visit Lane, Hupp, & Crowley to help you maneuver through your case. However, it’s important for you first to understand what felony crimes entail and encompass.
What is a Felony Crime?
A felony crime is traditionally treated with higher seriousness relative to a misdemeanor crime. Examples of a felony include kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder. Other non-violent crimes like fraud, theft, and forgery can also be classified as a felony if a considerable amount of money is involved.
In the old English common law, a felony crime carried many forms. The term often described an offense whose punishment involved confiscating a convicted person’s properties such as their land and goods. Any other additional penalties that seemed appropriate, like capital punishment, could as well be added. If a person has been convicted in a court of a felony act, he is termed a felon or a convicted felon.
Although various jurisdictions have different terms for serious offenses, the felony/misdemeanor terminology still applies widely. And felons are punished differently depending on their state's laws. For instance, in the United States, a convicted felon will be imprisoned for more than one year as per the federal government.
That means any crime punishable by less than one year is regarded as a misdemeanor. But as a rule of thumb, the higher the degree of a crime, the worse its punishment becomes. And while convicted misdemeanants get locked in local jails, convicted felons serve their time in state and federal prisons.
What Happens When You’re Charged with Felony But Not Convicted
Once you are charged with a felony crime, you will make a first court appearance called an arraignment. A court arraignment is meant to introduce the defendants to the nature of the crime they are being charged with and their rights-like to having an attorney. At this stage, the defendant can either plead guilty or not guilty. The judge proceeds with sentencing if the defendant pleads guilty, but the judge will reschedule for a pre-trial hearing if you plead not guilty.
Additionally, the arraignment stage also covers the bail matters. The bail amount is set during this period, and the attorney considers whether the bail amount is set too high. The attorney can also propose alternatives like the defendant's release based on their recognizance if you are held in custody during the arraignment.
You should know that the defendant can plead not guilty during arraignment in court even when they are guilty. And that might follow based on a range of reasons.
During an arraignment, the court presumes you are innocent until the prosecutor presents substantial proof beyond doubt. During the arraignment stage, the prosecutor is yet to review the case thoroughly. In that case, they have limited knowledge and incentive to make any favorable offer as per the plea agreement.
Nevertheless, the criminal defense lawyer might fall short of information regarding the charges against the defendant, limiting their judgment as to whether or not their client should accept the offered plea agreement. In that case, the criminal defense lawyer may inform the defendant of the maximum penalty they are bound to receive if the court finds them guilty of the felony crime.
Pleading Not Guilty
Often felonies plead not guilty to the charges against them in court during the arraignment stage. You may decide to plead not guilty and buy time for the criminal defense lawyer to thoroughly review the case against you and develop solid defensive strategies. Moreover, the defense lawyer may state your rights in court. They might keep raising motions in court to break the various evidence from being entered. They may also demonstrate to the court why the prosecution lacks enough evidence to declare you as guilty of the felony.
However, in certain circumstances, you might decide to change the status of your plea. Fortunately, the court may allow the defendant to change their plea from guilty to not guilty, basing on specific legal exceptions. Conversely, you can change your plea to guilty at some point when the criminal defense lawyer comes to favorable terms with the prosecution.
For this reason, most felonies plead not guilty in their court arraignment, and once they reach a plea bargain, they are declared as guilty.
The Defense Lawyer Decides Whether the Plea Favors the Defendant
Before pleading guilty and going into the trial stage, the criminal defense lawyer must assess whether the plea agreement works in favor of the defendant. In this case, the criminal defense lawyer evaluates the strength and weaknesses of the evidence presented by the prosecutor. The prosecutor must also present the criminal defense lawyer with evidence that functions in favor of the defendant. Unless the criminal defense lawyer believes that the evidence against the defendant is weak enough to accept trial, they must dig deep for why there is a strong connection between the defendant and the crime.
The prosecutor can suggest to the attorney various plea agreements. As such, the prosecutor can reduce the degree of charge from felony to misdemeanor. Nevertheless, they may agree to dismiss the charges in the sense that you must adhere to specified conditions such as rehabilitation or counseling services. At certain times, the court recommends the sentence to be significantly reduced, a far cry from the maximum penalty.
As long as you are charged with a felony crime, you should understand that it is a serious matter. Although you are most likely to face prison time, fines, and other penalties that might interfere with the quality of your life beyond prison time, you can cultivate better odds of winning by taking the proper step of hiring a lawyer just after your arrest.