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 FBI Backgroundcheck Blog

The Classification and Repercussions of Felony Charges

Felonies are very serious crimes that oftentimes come with the legal territory of common law in most industrialized nations around the globe. In the United States, a felony is characterized as a crime of "high seriousness" that comes with, by definition, at least one year in prison or death sentence. For crimes deserving less than one year of prison time the ruling is usually misdemeanor rather than felony. It is interesting to note that different states classify and adjudicate felonies and midseasons differently. In fact, this regional distinction regarding felonies even applies to state statute regarding felonies and hiring decisions. 

Felonies Versus Misdemeanors 
Felonies are crimes of "high seriousness" that come with steeper punishments than misdemeanors in the United States. Within the United States felonies are conventionally broken down into violent and nonviolent felonies. The former class of felony is oftentimes seen as more serious as violent felonies usually entail a force or alleged threat of force against another individual. Violent felonies might include crimes such as murder or rape, whereas nonviolent felonies burglary or copyright infringement, although the dividing line is not always clear. 

State by State 
In Virginia the law of the land considers both common-law burglary (breaking and entering) and statutory burglary (breaking and entering with additional criminal intent) as felonies. Virginia also considers these two types of felonies as likely to cause psychological distress to the homeowners, and therefore classifies common-law burglary and statutory burglary as violent felonies. This is one distinction between particular state's treatment of felony charges, but there are more subtle nuances. For example, some states consider manufacturing certain quantities of illicit substance or repeatedly driving while intoxicated to be very serious felonies whereas other states consider these crimes but only misdemeanors. 

The Rub 
Many states possess their own felony classification system. Virginia, for instance, has a system in which felonies are ranked from one to six in descending order of seriousness. The degree of the felony is important because many states have punishments fitting the degree of the felony, ranging from disenfranchisement and voiding of driver's license to forfeiting of one's right to attain welfare or (in extreme cases) deportation from the United States. 

That said, in most states employers and even apartment landlords will want to inquire about felony charges accrued at any point in the past. Answering a job application disingenuously and hiding one's felony charge can lead to dismissal from an interview or even ex post facto termination from a job, so it's crucial to be honest at all stages of the application process. Additionally and unfortunately for felons it is legal in most states to discriminate against an individual based on a felony charge. This means that an employer or landlord might legally elide a felon's job application or apartment request simply because of the felony charge. 

Felon for Life? 
In the United States the label and charge of convicted felon is considered an inexpugnable offense. This means that even with parole or probation a felon will still need to stipulate her felony charges whenever she applies for a job or an apartment requesting felony information. Fortunately felons are allowed to appeal in court for a reinstatement of some rights previously taken away by virtue of their felony charge. That said, it is still important to mention felonies in job applications or whenever felony information is requested. 

This article has explored the differences between felonies and misdemeanors, especially as those differences regard state statutes and job applications. 

Rabert Hedley writes about law, economics & dental insurance.