Misdemeanors & Felonies
Most people never imagine that they will be arrested and charged with a crime and assume that anyone who is arrested must be a criminal. The truth is that anyone can be arrested. A mistaken identification, a misunderstanding or dispute with the police or another party, even simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can lead to being taken into custody by the police and charged with an offense. Being arrested can be one of the scariest moments in anyone’s life. Suddenly your liberty is taken away and you may face the prospect of months or years of incarceration. The whole criminal adjudication process is both intimidating and confusing.
Felonies are the most serious category of criminal offenses and in legal theory are acts committed with an “evil intent.” They include crimes such as murder, manslaughter, burglary, arson, certain types of DWI and many different drug offenses.
The penalties that can be imposed following a convicted for a felony may include one or more years of incarceration in a state prison, up to five years probation, up to five years post release supervision and substantial fines. With only a few exceptions felony convictions create a permanent criminal record.
Felonies are prosecuted by “indictment” of a Grand Jury, which is a body of 23 people who meet in closed session and are presented evidence of the possible commission of a felony offense. If a majority of the members of the Grand Jury believe that the prosecutor has presented sufficient evidence to constitute “probable cause” to believe that a person has committed all the elements of a crime they will vote a “bill of indictment.” Once indicted a felony case is handled in either County Court or County Supreme Court (which court handles the case differs in different counties). People who are the subjects of a Grand Jury investigation have a right to testify before the Grand Jury and to request that the Grand Jury call witnesses they believe have evidence. However, it is important to understand that Grand Juries are creatures of the prosecution and unless immunity has been granted any testimony that a witness provides may be used against them.
Misdemeanors are a category of offenses that are still considered “crimes,” but are not considered to be as serious as felonies. They include crimes such as DWI, petit larceny, several forms of drug possession, etc. Like felonies, a misdemeanor conviction results in a permanent criminal record. Penalties for a misdemeanor conviction include up to 1 year in county jail, fines and up to 3 years probation. Misdemeanors are prosecuted in local courts (in a city they are handled in City Court, in all other areas of NYS they are handled in local town or village courts).
Dealing with the power of the State to arrest and prosecute you isn’t something that anyone should try to deal with on their own. More important than any other factor, who you retain as a lawyer to defend you can determine how likely you are to have your case fairly and completely adjudicated. Fortunately, in the United States and particularly in New York State, the law provides you with a broad range of rights and protections that are designed to assure that the State does not abuse its tremendous police powers. Asserting and protecting all of these rights is the job of your attorney (for more information on your rights click here). Choosing an attorney who will aggressively assert your rights, listen to you and make sure that all the facts associated with the case are investigated is critical to minimizing the risk you will be convicted of an offense.
Glenn Magnell is available to provide energetic, knowledgeable professional legal representation regarding arrests or tickets related to speeding, DWI and misdemeanors and felonies.
For more information on on DWI & DWAI click here.
For more information about Parole and Probation click here.
For more information about Your Rights if Arrested click here.