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What is a "Felony"?

A felony technically is any offense which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of over one year. There are felony offenses for property crimes like theft, for crimes of violence like assault, and even for some traffic offenses like habitually driving under the influence. In Hawaii, typically felonies are broken down into three severities by letter designation.

A "C" felony is the least serious. It carries a maximum of 5 years in jail and $10,000 fine. Some examples of "C" felonies are Theft in the Second Degree, Assault in the Second Degree, Unauthorized Control of a Propelled Vehicle, and Promoting a Dangerous Drug in the Third Degree. Most, but not all "C" felonies are probationable which means that instead of going to prison for 5 years if convicted, the court can put you on court supervision in the community. There are a few, however, that carry mandatory 5 year prison sentences, or may require you to spend 30 days in jail before being released on probation. Most also are eligible for a deferral of your plea which could allow you to keep a clean criminal record if you follow some rules set by the court. I will discuss what a deferral is in a later post.

A "B" Felony carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Some examples of "B" felonies are Assault in the First Degree, Theft in the First Degree, Robbery in the Second Degree, and Promoting a Dangerous Drug in the Second Degree. Like with a "C" felony, many "B" felonies are probationable and some are even deferrable.

An "A" Felony is the most serious criminal classification in Hawaii. It carries penalties from 20 years in prison to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole. Some common "A" felonies are Murder, Sexual Assault in the First Degree, Robbery in the First Degree and Promoting a Dangerous Drug in the First Degree. Most "A" felonies are not probationable or deferrable, although there are a couple, like certain types of drug charges, that have a possibility of probation.

Because a felony is the most serious type of criminal charge, you are entitled to a jury trial with 12 members of the community rather that just a single judge. There are a lot of other nuances to a felony charge that definitely require you to consult with an attorney. All felonies will carry immigration consequences if you are not a citizen of the United States. All will also disqualify you from voting or owning/possessing firearms.

If you are charged with a felony or are even a suspect or under investigation, you definitely need to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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