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Felonies

If you have been charged with a felony, you could be facing substantial prison time. In some states, certain types of very serious felonies can incur the death penalty. If you have a felony charge against you, it can derail any plans that you have for your life. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. You need experienced legal representation to ensure that your rights are protected.

Criminal defense attorney Igor Litvak of The Litvak Law Firm has experience in handling numerous high profile federal and state felony cases. Some of his more Notable Cases involve homicide, rape and sex offenses, major drug conspiracies, international cybercrime, terrorism, white-collar crimes, assault, gun and weapon possession, domestic violence, animal cruelty and many more.

Overview of Felony Crimes

In the United States, felony crimes are considered to be the most serious offenses. In the majority of jurisdictions in the country, felonies are defined by specific classes. These may vary somewhat from one jurisdiction to the next, but they usually work to provide stiffer, more severe penalties for someone who committed a felony and is considered to be a repeat offender, than someone who is a first-time offender. Usually these classes assign more serious consequences for felonies that are deemed to be violent or involving large loss amounts, while felonies that are not as cruel, hateful, or injurious are at the other end of the scale with lesser punishments.

Felonies are very complex and much of the sentencing is dependent upon the circumstances that surround the crime. Most often, they garner imprisonment of a year or more, fines, or both. In about half of the states in the US, there is a “Three Strikes Law” under which habitual felony offenders receive punishment. Under these laws, individuals who are convicted of crimes and have two previous convictions for felony offenses, receive harsher sentences. The purpose of this is to prevent those who seem to have a tendency toward committing serious crimes from actually doing so by placing them in the highly controlled environment of prison.

The Three Strikes Laws are not without controversy. Under these laws, a state court judge is required to impose a life sentence on an individual who has been convicted of a felony and has a history of at least two convictions of violent crimes. There are some (very vocal) groups that feel this punishment is unusually and unnecessarily harsh.

Federal or State Felonies?

When it comes to crime, quite often state and federal laws will overlap. The general rule of thumb is, if the crime is committed in one state, then the typical course of action is for it to be considered a state crime unless it is classified as a federal crime. If the crime violates that state’s laws, such as murder, burglary, or rape, then it is tried in state court. If it violates federal laws, like kidnapping, drug trafficking, cybercrime or counterfeiting, then it is tried in federal court. Also, a felony that is committed on federal property, crosses state lines, is committed in many states, or involves interstate or international commerce will often be deemed a federal crime.

Under the US Constitution’s “Supremacy Clause,” if a crime fits as a state crime as well as a federal crime, the federal law will override state law and the case is tried in federal court. This is a fairly frequent occurrence and the federal authorities will take over the case, particularly when the suspect or the case is of interest to federal law enforcement. This seeming fluidity between federal and state courts can be very confusing – another good reason to have a strong criminal defense attorney on your side.

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides direction on how certain federal criminal cases are handled in the General Trial Courts as well as the District Courts in the United States. Accompanying guidance on other, related matters include the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Evidence.

Types of Felony Crimes

There are three types of crime: Infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Felonies are the most serious type of crime. Some of the more common felonies include: kidnapping, aggravated assault and/or battery, murder, domestic violence, vandalism, arson, rape, burglary, robbery, DUI, manslaughter, fraud, and theft. It is important to note that some of these crimes may be misdemeanors, but there are several factors used to make that determination.

States classify many laws but where or how the crime was committed can also make it more serious. Felonies are broken down by whether the crime was against a person or property.

Crimes against persons

  • Assault – Assault is the illegal offer or attempt to enact violence upon an individual with the intent of causing harm to them. Different states may have slight variations of this definition, but they are close enough to summarize here. In a nutshell, assault makes the victim feel afraid. Even if the person did not touch the victim, it can still be assault. When the person tries to seriously injure the other person or wields a deadly weapon, it becomes a felony assault.
  • Criminal Battery -Battery is similar to assault, but where contact is not necessary for an action to be assault, in battery, force and physical contact are necessary. It is basically unlawful contact.
  • Domestic Violence – When one household member abuses or hurts another household member, it is called domestic violence. It is typically thought to be between spouses, but it can also be between parent and child, even between roommates. It can include stalking, physical battery, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.
  • Drug Related Crimes – The amount of drugs that a person has and their intent for the drugs is what makes a drug charge a felony. However, in the cases of more intense, stronger drugs, like cocaine, even small quantities can garner a felony classification. Drug possession is not confined to what the individual has on him. It also extends to areas owned by that person, including a car or home.
  • DUI/DWI – Operating a motor vehicle while consuming alcohol or drugs can get you a charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). While the laws may vary in some states, the basic principle is that a person who operates a motor vehicle (car, boat, motorcycle, snowmobile, depending on state laws) while under the influence can face DUI charges that include jail time and fines. The offense receives the classification of felony if the person is a repeat offender, if someone else was injured because of the action, and the frequency that the offense is committed by the person.
  • Kidnapping – When one person forces another person to stay somewhere or when they are taken by force, it is kidnapping. Most people are familiar with kidnapping being someone who is abducted and confined, sometimes for ransom. However, a non-custodial parent who takes their child and refuses to return it to the custodial parent may be guilty of kidnapping as well.
  • Manslaughter – There are two classifications of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter occurs when one person who is mentally or emotionally distraught (is an otherwise reasonable person) kills another person in the heat of the moment. The timing is important in a voluntary manslaughter case. The violence must occur during the time of the disagreement so that it is indeed in the heat of the moment. Involuntary manslaughter does not include an intent to kill. It occurs due to negligence.
  • Murder – Murder is classified as either first degree or second degree. First degree murder involves planning to kill someone then carrying it out. In other words, the murder was premeditated. Second degree murder occurs when there was no prior planning.
  • Rape – All rapes are felony crimes. A rape occurs when one person forces another person into a non-consensual sex act. This may include intercourse, but also other acts of a sexual nature as well.
  • Robbery – When a person uses force to take property away from someone else, that is robbery. What is important to note here is that it does not take much force to bump a theft charge up to a felony charge.

Crimes Against Property

  • Arson – When a person intentionally sets fire to a property, such as a building or a house, for illegal purposes is arson.
  • Burglary – When a person enters a building, such as a home, and they do not have authorization to do so and they intend to take things that do not belong to them or engage in criminal activity, that is burglary. This offense is far more serious than theft, but if the structure is inhabited, it can be even worse.
  • Fraud – The most serious type of fraud is felony fraud. Typically, it involves large sums of money, valuable assets, or a governmental agency.
  • Theft – When a person takes someone else’s property without their consent with no intention of returning it, that is theft. The felony charge attached to this offense is determined by the value of what was taken.
  • Vandalism – This offense involves the disfigurement or destruction of property. It becomes a felony if that vandalism occurs on government property such as historic sites, national parks, military installations, or monuments.

Penalties for Federal Felony Crimes

Federal law has very clear guidelines for assigning penalties to felony crimes. Certain crimes are specifically named, and the penalties outlined, but there are also special instructions for repeat offenders. Under federal law, 18 U.S. Code § 3559 - Sentencing classification of offenses, many offenses are classified and the penalties outlined under subsection (c). Those that are not included there are classified under subsection (a) as follows:

  • A – Life imprisonment, or if the maximum penalty is death
  • B – 25 years or more
  • C – 10 to (less than) 25 years
  • D – 5 to (less than) 10 years
  • E – 1 to (less than) 5 years

Penalties for Felony Crimes in New York

In New York, felonies are classified according to their seriousness. They range from A to E, with A crimes being the most severe or serious. This chart provides a very general overview and does not account for repeat offenders. An individual with prior convictions will receive a harsher sentence. There are many other factors that may also carry weight including if the person has prior convictions, if the crime was violent, and if the defendant is very young. New York felony offenses include:

A – Violent Felony                 Life, 20-25 years

B – Violent Felony                 5-25 years

B – Non-Violent Felony         1-3, maximum 25 years

C – Violent Felony                 3½ to 15 years

C – Non-Violent Felony         No Jail, Probation, 1-2 years to 15 years

D – Violent Felony                 2-7 years

D – Non-Violent Felony         No Jail, Probation 1-3 to 7 years

E – Violent Felony                  No Jail, Probation, 1½ to 4 years

E – Non-Violent Felony         No Jail, Probation, 1 1/3 to 4 years

Felons and Civil Disabilities

Most felons experience a certain degree of civil disabilities. This means that they have certain privileges or legal rights revoked as a result of their felony conviction. It can adversely affect the person while they are incarcerated as well as once they are released. It can mean that certain privileges, such as holding public office, obtaining or holding occupational licenses, voting, and obtaining certain jobs, are revoked and the felon is not allowed to do any of them. State laws often determine which civil disabilities will be imposed on the defendant.

Felony Defenses

The defense that is used for a charge depends on the charge, whether or not you are a repeat offender, and other factors. The complexity of felony cases is a primary reason why people should get an attorney instead of trying to go it alone. A good criminal defense attorney will look at the case and all the events surrounding it then go through and find the strongest defense for your individual case.

If you are facing felony charges, you need good legal representation. You need a lawyer who will work for you, protecting your rights, and acting in your best interest. You need a felony criminal defense attorney who has the experience and education to get the best results possible for your case.

At The Litvak Law Firm our first priority is our clients. We will be with you at every step of your case, from investigation to arrest to appeals. We do it all and will step up to ensure that the outcome of your case is the best possible for you. If you think you are being investigated, don’t wait to see what law enforcement will do, make the call. If you’ve been arrested, are awaiting trial, or are considering an appeal, reach out today and let us help you. Call (718) 929-2908 today for your free phone consultation. You have certain rights afforded to you by law, but you need someone standing up for you, protecting those rights to ensure you get due process. At the Litvak Law Firm, that is what we do, all day, every day. We’re here for you.



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