Misdemeanor charges are nothing to shrug off and can even result in a certain amount of stress. Any criminal charges can upend your world and your family. You have no way of knowing how many months or years you will wait in anxiety while authorities build their case against you. You also cannot predict what the outcome will be. With a misdemeanor, a conviction could mean community service, fines, restitution or even jail time. If you are facing felony charges, your future will probably be much more complicated.
A felony is a serious crime that carries the potential for long-term ramifications for the accused. These offenses include white collar crimes, property crimes like arson, and violent crimes against other people. Many drug crimes are felonies, depending on certain factors such as the amount and kind of drugs in question.
The crime and the punishment
Murder is not the only violent act that can result in a felony charge. For example, a driver involved in an accident that results in serious injuries or the death of someone else might be charged with a felony if he or she was impaired at the time. In addition, in North Carolina and many states, if you have numerous drunk driving convictions within a certain period of time, you might eventually face felony charges with or without an accident.
If a court convicts you of a felony, you are looking at more than a few months in jail. Felony penalties often include any of the following:
- A criminal record that may hinder your ability to find work, secure housing or obtain federal benefits
- Prison for one year or longer, sometimes even decades, and possibly life without parole for certain violent crimes
- Fines and fees that may total thousands of dollars
- The loss of your professional license or even your job
- Forfeiture of some of your constitutional rights, like the right to vote and the right to purchase or possess a firearm
- The risk of deportation if you are not a U.S. citizen
- The death penalty
The death penalty is still legal in North Carolina for crimes that meet certain standards. Additionally, if authorities consider a crime especially heinous, the federal government can impose capital punishment for serious felonies. While the penalties you are facing may not be a matter of life and death, it is likely you still have a lot on the line as you build your defense against felony charges.