What is a Felony?
A felony is the most serious status of crime an individual can be found guilty of. Those who are found guilty of a felony face penalties such as extensive jail time and excessive fines. Felonies are considered “crimes of moral turpitude,” which are defined as depravity or wickedness. Because these types of crimes are viewed severely, they are also punished severely.
Types of Felony Charges
Every state has its own definition and sentencing for individual crimes, including felonies. Some common examples of felony charges include:
- Aggravated Assault or Battery
- Animal Cruelty
- Blackmail or Extortion
- Check, Mail, or Wire Fraud
- Sex Crimes
- Forgery (of Checks or Money)
- Grand Theft
- Tax Evasion
Rights Lost Due to Felony Conviction
Those convicted of a felony are referred to as “felons.” In addition to jail time and fines, felons typically lose many civilian privileges when convicted. These losses can also vary by state, but typically include:
- Disenfranchisement – Exclusion from voting. Some states preclude felons from ever being allowed to vote again, while others only disenfranchise felons until they have completed their punishment.
- Exclusion from Certain Licenses – Often includes the inability to gain a travel visa or passport, or from obtaining operational licenses required for professional purposes, such as teaching or security clearance.
- Exclusion from Certain Purchases – Includes firearms, ammunition, or body armor.
- Ineligible to Serve on a Jury
- Ineligible for Government Assistance – Felons can be barred from government assistance, such as welfare, federally funded housing, and federal student aid.
- Potential Deportation – Felons who are not citizens of the U.S. could face deportation and further restrictions from re-entering the country.
In addition, felons often have a hard time finding employment due to their criminal record.
How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record?
A felony conviction will typically stay on the individual’s criminal record forever. However, there are some steps individuals can take to limit its effect on their future:
While federal courts do not allow it, some states allow felonies to be expunged, or removed, from a criminal record. In these states, some minor felony charges can be expunged. However, more serious felony charges are rarely, if ever, eligible for expungement. This typically requires a petition for expungement and meeting specific criteria for eligibility.
When a record is sealed, the felony conviction is not permanently removed, but only specific individuals are allowed to see it, such as law enforcement. This is a common occurrence for juvenile offenses.
A pardon is when a convicted individual is legally forgiven their offense, which in turn may cancel any of their remaining punishment. Though pardoned, the criminal record will still reflect the conviction. A pardon is essentially a recognition that the convicted individual has successfully turned their life around. Some states will allow the pardoned crime(s) to be erased through a petition of expungement.