Have you been convicted of a felony? Are you facing charges and concerned that a felony conviction is in your future? Maybe you’ve found yourself or involved in some criminal activity, and you’re wondering just how bad the consequences could really be.
What is a felony? A felony is a crime that can result in a sentence of more than one year. That said, precisely which offenses are classified as felonies varies somewhat by jurisdiction. Some felonies can result in a sentence of probation/no incarceration, while others can involve jail or prison sentences and “suspended time.” The most serious felonies can result in life sentences or even the death penalty in many states and the federal system.
But what happens after you serve any sentence? How does a felony impact your life long term?
Keep reading to learn all about it.
A Felony Conviction Stays On Your Criminal Record Forever
Unless you are the extremely rare offender who has a conviction overturned/reversed or pardoned post-conviction, generally speaking a felony will never leave your record. Contrary to popular belief, expungement is not available for convictions. If expungement is available in your jurisdiction at all (e.g., it is not provided for in the federal system) it is only available if the prosecution declines to prosecute, or you are acquitted at trial.
Unlike misdemeanors which are considered “minor offenses,” felonies are considered serious crimes. Examples of felonies include violent offenses such as sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, and murder, as well as financial crimes such as grand larceny, auto theft, criminal fraud and more.
It Can Impact Your Future Career Options
Felons who have served their time–and even those who receive probationary or other non-custodial sentence–often find that they can’t find employment after they leave jail. Even though they paid their debt to society, employers often don’t want a felon on the team.
Some positions are easier for felons to get, but those are often trades or minimum wage positions.
There are federal laws that prevent businesses from discriminating against people with criminal records, but some employers are exempt, and many employers still do regardless.
You Lose Certain Rights
Did you know that you will lose some of your rights if you are convicted of a felony? While many people think that their rights are always protected, this isn’t true.
While you’re in Virginia or D.C., you can continue voting despite your felony. If you choose to move, however, you may not retain those rights.
Felons also lose the right to bear arms. This is a federal law, often mirrored by the state of conviction, and it applies whether or not your crime was violent. Even convictions of purely white-collar crimes result in the loss of rights if they are classified as felonies.
It Can Affect Your Social Life
While this may not be as serious a consideration, having a felony on your record may affect your social life if people find out. Should you be honest? Will it be worse if friends and family find out from other sources? How will they react? The answers to these questions are of course case-specific, but sometimes it can help to have your attorney explain things to loved ones. Sometimes a case “on paper” sounds worse than it is, and counsel’s explanation may help friends, family, co-workers and even potential employers feel more comfortable knowing the full picture.
Unfortunately, some people may always uncomfortable forming relationships with people with criminal records. This collateral consequence of a criminal conviction–especially a felony which folks who have had no exposure to the criminal justice system view as very bad–often goes overlooked; it is important to be prepared because the emotional impact can affect your ability to, for example, comply with all post-release conditions.
A Felony Conviction Impacta Your Entire Life, and the Lives of Others
Felony convictions are serious. If the matter cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor (via plea negotiations or successful challenge to the elements of the felony), or you are not acquitted at trial, the felony will follow you for the rest of your life. You will lose rights, have trouble finding employment, and struggle to maintain certain personal relationships.
If you’re facing the potential of a felony conviction, I want to help you. Contact me so we can start working on your case together today.