New York Felony Frequently Asked Questions
How are felonies and misdemeanors differentiated?
The state of New York categorizes all crimes into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are considered to be less severe criminal acts than the actions taken when committing a felony. This means that misdemeanor penalties have less severity than felony penalties. In New York, the most serious misdemeanor charge is a Class A misdemeanor, which has a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail.
Felonies, on the other hand, all have potential maximum sentences of several years in prison. The least serious felony, a Class E felony, comes with a maximum penalty of four years imprisoned. That said, prison time isn’t always required in cases of Class E felonies. Sometimes a judge will order fines, probation, community service, or some combination of all of these, instead of imprisonment.
Felonies come with statutory sentencing guidelines. These guidelines are coded into law and help the judge to determine what sentence should be imposed. Additionally, judges consider the extraneous factors involved in the case. What caused the crime to happen? Was it a violent crime? Do you appear to show any inclination toward rehabilitation? Do you have a previous criminal history? These things will all influence the decision a judge makes.
Felony convictions have detrimental effects on a person’s future. Felons have restricted rights in certain areas of their lives, even without taking into account the penalties for the charge itself. It’s also difficult for felons to find professional work, since most employers run a criminal background check during the hiring process. A felony conviction is public record unless you have an approved application to have it hidden, so any criminal background check will show it.
Because of the severity of both felony crimes and their associated penalties, your best option is to contact a New York attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will help you navigate the criminal justice system, understand your options, and choose the best path moving forward. Spodek Law Group has experienced criminal attorneys who have been practicing law since 1976.
What is a grand jury?
People who have been accused of felonies must bring their case to a grand jury. Unlike misdemeanor charges, during which a judge will make the decision regarding indictment, felony charges require a grand jury’s indictment. You will have the option of waiving the grand jury.
The prosecution is required to present sufficient evidence to the jury to prove that there’s enough reasonable suspicion for you to go to trial. Standards for indictment are low. Indictments and convictions are not the same thing. For a prosecutor to have you indicted, they don’t need to prove that you committed the crime. They just need to prove that there is sufficient evidence showing that you might have committed the crime.
What about cases with no indictment?
In rare cases, grand juries decide not to indict a person who has been accused of a felony. The prosecutor will then have the option of presenting new evidence to the grand jury, but if they do not have any additional evidence, the charges against you have a chance to be dismissed.
What happens after an indictment?
After indictment, the next step is an arraignment at the state Supreme Court. You’ll go through a series of hearings and motions. You might be given the option to resolve the case before the trial. Usually this involves coming to an agreement with the prosecution in which you plead guilty to a lesser charge. If no plea agreement is settled upon, the case will eventually proceed to trial.