In Hawaii, felony offenses fall into three general categories:
Class "A" felonies
maximum possible penalty of either 20 yrs or life in prison
Class "B" felonies
maximum possible penalty 10 yrs in prison
Class "C" felonies
maximum possible penalty 5 yrs in prison
Depending on several different factors including the offense type, the individual's criminal record, and the age of the complainant, an individual charged with a felony may be eligible for probation instead of prison. However, someone placed on probation can still receive a significant amount of jail time as a term of their probation. For a class "C" felony, an individual can usually receive up to one year of jail in addition to probation. For a class "B" felony, an individual can usually receive up to eighteen (18) months of jail in addition to probation. In most class "A" felonies defendants are not eligible for probation at all. For a few types, however, there is a possibility of 2 years of jail in addition to 10 years of probation.
Depending on the type of felony charge and your criminal record, you may also be eligible for deferred acceptance of your plea which would allow you to keep a clean criminal record provided you follow certain conditions imposed by the court. Not all charges are eligible for deferrals. You should ask your attorney whether this option is available for you in your case.
Pre-trial release and bail issues are handled differently between felony and misdemeanor cases. Bail amounts in felony cases are generally set higher. Those who cannot afford to post cash bail can attempt to ask for a reduction of their bail or release without bail by filing a written motion for supervised release with the court. You may also use the services of a bail bondsman who will typically charge you a non-refundable fee in exchange for posting your bail for you.
Felonies may be charged in one of three different ways. First, the prosecutor may file a complaint in the district court following your arrest. The court will then hold a preliminary hearing at which evidence must be presented by the prosecutor to establish probable cause for the offense(s) for which you are charged. You are entitled to an attorney at this hearing. Second, the prosecutor may seek an indictment from the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury is a proceeding done in secret where the defendant nor his attorney is present. If the Grand Jury finds sufficient evidence for probable cause, it will return an indictment and a judge will issue a Grand Jury bench warrant for your arrest and set a bail amount. Typically, once the warrant is issued, the police will attempt to serve you with the warrant. Third, the prosecutor can proceed via "Information Charging" where a simple affidavit is presented to a judge from which he/she must find probable cause to bring a charge. If the judge finds probable cause based on the affidavit, then an arrest warrant is issued and bail is set.
If you are charged with a felony offense there are numerous court hearings which you are required to attend. One of the first hearings is the arraignment and plea. At that hearing, your case will be assigned to a trial judge and important deadlines regarding your case will be set. It is imperative that you be represented by an attorney at this hearing so that these important deadlines are not missed. Once a trial week is set, your attorney should begin working towards the best possible outcome for you. Obviously, felony offenses are the most serious of criminal offenses. I recommend consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as possible in the process.