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A felony offense is a level of crime that is considered the most serious of the offenses. In criminal law, there are two major divisions of crime: misdemeanors and felonies. Both of these divisions are often broken down into other levels. For example, a Class 1 felony or a Class A felony, is often the worst type of felony offense in a jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions may have more divisions of felonies than others.
Despite being considered the more serious crime, a felony offense is adjudicated in the same way as any other crime. The accused individual, known as the defendant, has the opportunity to ask for a jury trial in many countries. There, the prosecution will present evidence that it asserts will prove the defendant committed the crime. If the jury believes the prosecutor has sufficient evidence, then a conviction is handed down.
While the punishment for a felony offense is often harsher than that of a misdemeanor, the burden of proof remains the same. A prosecuting attorney is not held to any higher level of evidence when prosecuting for a felony as compared to a misdemeanor. In many countries, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt.
In most cases, the technical minimum punishment for a felony offense is two years in a state prison. In actuality, that punishment may not be as severe. Some offenders, once convicted, will get credit for time served in a local jail, and others may get time off for doing work and good behavior. Judges may also have the ability to offer the offender a suspended sentence, which would not have to be served at all unless the offender broke more laws or failed to follow the conditions of his or her release.
While it may seem like committing a felony means a straight ticket to prison, less than half of those who commit felonies actually end up in prison in the United States. That is because of other programs designed to help and rehabilitate offenders. Furthermore, the cost of incarcerating an offender often encourages jurisdictions to try other solutions before resorting to a long-term prison sentence.
Many defendants are willing to plead a case down from a felony offense to a misdemeanor simply because they do not want the felony on their record. Felonies often make it harder to obtain employment. Additionally, multiple felonies, especially if they are violent crimes, can lead to much harsher penalties. Therefore, many defendants are willing to admit some level of guilt and not go through a trial if the prosecutor is willing to agree to a lower level of offense.
Most job applications I have ever seen ask if you have ever been convicted of a felony. I am sure most employers shy away from someone who has committed a felony if they have other qualified applicants.
If a person has been convicted of a felony, they also cannot vote or leave the country. I don't know if this is the case for all felony types, but know this is the case for something like a 3rd degree felony.
I had a distant cousin who had a felony and also cleaned up his life afterward. He even sent a letter to the governor at one point to see if he could get his felony pardoned, but I don't think it ever was.
I have personally seen how difficult it is for someone who has committed a felony to get a good job. We know a guy who spent some time in prison for something to do with drugs, and this was a felony offense.
Since then, he has completely changed his life around, but the consequences of this still affect him. He has been able to find steady work, but his opportunities are much more limited than they would have been otherwise.
He is now in his 50's and working at jobs that barely pay over minimum wage. His wife has a decent job which really helps, but this can sure make it hard to make ends meet.