Many people are aware that a conviction for a crime — particularly a serious crime, such as assault, sexual offenses or drug distribution — can have serious consequences, including long prison sentences and substantial fines. What some fail to realize, however, is that a felony conviction can affect a person's life in significant, unforeseen ways.
By definition, felony convictions carry a minimum prison sentence of one year. Of course, the exact term of the sentence will vary according to the exact circumstances, but felony convictions commonly carry the possibility of multiple years behind bars. In some cases, however, prison time is just the beginning. After a person has completed his sentence, he may still be subject to probation, sometimes called supervised release. Depending on the terms of probation, which are set by a judge, a person may be required to check in regularly with law enforcement and may even be subject to curfews and testing for drugs and alcohol use.
A felony conviction also impacts rights that many people take for granted. For example, it is against the law for those convicted of felonies to own firearms. If authorities discover that a felon does own a weapon, they can charge him with an additional crime. Those convicted of felonies may also lose their right to vote. Although it is possible to petition for the restoration of these rights, the process is generally not easy.
Informally, a felony conviction can also negatively affect a person's business and private life. Many employers are hesitant to hire those with any sort of criminal background, let alone those who have been convicted of felonies. This can make it particularly difficult to make a living. In addition, it can be difficult to find a place to live post-conviction, particularly for those who have done time for violent crimes or sexual offenses.
More than anything else, it is essential for those facing felony charges to seek the counsel of a qualified criminal defense attorney. Experienced criminal defense attorneys can advise and guide clients on how to protect their rights. Furthermore, criminal defense attorneys know that felony convictions carry significant consequences beyond time in jail and they can tailor their advice to clients with a view to the future. Indeed, it may be a mistake to accept a plea deal simply to make a problem go away. Those facing criminal charges should remember that no cases are alike and the advice of a criminal defense attorney can be invaluable.