How Serious are Felony Charges?

By  //  July 14, 2022

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In most states, being charged with a felony means you have been charged with a criminal offense that could put you in prison for one year or longer. If it is one of the most serious felonies like murder or rape, you might end up spending the rest of your life in prison or even face the death penalty, depending on the jurisdiction where you live.

If you are facing felony charges, the first thing you need to do is reach out to a Miami criminal defense lawyer. Time is of the essence, and your lawyer needs to have time to gather all the evidence and build a strong case in your defense. 

How are felonies defined?

The criminal law statutes of most states consider felonies as being more serious than misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are associated with sentences of up to a year in prison, while felonies can be punished by death, life in prison, or lengthy prison sentences.

The law also defines different classes and degrees of felonies, which imply how harshly the perpetrator will be punished if found guilty.

How do felonies and misdemeanors differ?

There are significant differences between misdemeanors and felonies, among them:


While misdemeanors involve spending time in a county or local jail, felonies can potentially carry a prison sentence.

Length of Incarceration

Misdemeanor sentences are rarely longer than one year. Felony sentences are usually much longer. Although some may start at one year, there is a real possibility of life in prison or even a death sentence.


A felony conviction results in the person losing the right to vote, and they may also be barred from jury duty. Professional licenses are lost and convicted felons will encounter difficulties finding a job or getting housing. Although misdemeanor convictions also carry consequences, they are not as severe or long-lasting as those that come with a felony. 

Which ones are serious felonies?

Common serious felony cases include assault, battery, and other crimes such as:

Drug offenses – These may include drug trafficking, distribution, cultivation, and manufacturing.

White-collar crimes – These encompass, among others, embezzlement, fraud, and identity theft.

Violent crimes – These refer to murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, carjacking, domestic violence and abuse, and others.

Felony DUI charges.

How long can you expect a felony case to take?

Since felony charges are graver than misdemeanors, it is logical to assume that their processing will also take longer. Yet, the precise length of time depends on the case itself and the elements involved. Your criminal defense lawyer should have experience with cases similar to yours and can give you a more accurate estimate of the timeline for your case.

What are the most common felony charges in the United States?

There is a long list of felonies that are committed across the country, the most common ones being:

 Drug abuse violations

 Car theft



Disorderly conduct

Sale of liquor to minors




Forcible rape

Aggravated assault



Domestic violence

Carrying a weapon without a proper license



What happens in a felony case?

Although not every one of the following steps applies to every case, in general, felonies involve:

Initiating Charges by a Complaint

Law enforcement and a United States Attorney file a criminal complaint under oath to support probable cause that a defendant has committed an offense. An arrest warrant may be issued unless the defendant is already under arrest. Victims and witnesses may have been interviewed prior to the complaint being filed.

Initial Appearance

The defendant gets a first hearing before a US Magistrate. The defendant is told their rights, and charges are explained. The defendant gets legal representation, and it is determined whether they can be released on bail.

Preliminary Hearing

At this time, it is determined whether there is enough evidence to believe that probable cause may exist that the defendant has committed a crime. The US Attorney has the burden of proving there is sufficient evidence to support their findings. They must prove that there is good reason to proceed with the case.

Grand Jury Hearing

A grand jury composed of 23 citizens from the same judicial district meet to go over the evidence against the defendant. Their decision is communicated to the US Assistant District Attorney. During an arraignment, the magistrate informs the defendant of the charges, and bail conditions are reviewed.

Trial and Sentencing

The defendant gets a formal notice to appear, and the trial follows the same pattern as any criminal case. In the end, the defendant is informed of the sentencing.