What Is a Class 3 Felony?
Virtually every state in the country divides crimes between misdemeanors and felonies. Felonies are more serious and are punishable by at least a year in prison and often much longer, depending on the crime. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are generally punishable by a sentence of less than a year that is served in local facility. There are six states – Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota and Virginia – that have Class 3 felonies. In Illinois, crimes in the Class 3 category are among the least serious in the state because there are only four classes of felonies. However, in the other states, a Class 3 felony is more serious because each state has at least six total classes of felonies. Class 3 felonies include:
- Cultivation of 4 pounds or more of marijuana – Arizona
- Burglary – 1st degree – Colorado
- Assault – 2nd degree – Nebraska
- Battery – Illinois
- Aggravated assault – South Dakota
- Malicious wounding – Virginia
Maximum and Minimum Sentences
Not surprisingly, the pre-set sentencing range for Class 3 felonies is more serious in the states where there are at least six felony classes. That includes 4 to 12 years in Colorado, up to 15 years in South Dakota, a maximum of 20 years in Nebraska and 5 to 20 years in Virginia. Illinois, which has only 4 felony classes, has a pre-set sentencing range of 2 to 5 years for Class 3 felonies. Each state varies on the maximum fine that can be included with a Class 3 felony sentence. The high is $750,000 in Colorado, followed by $150,000 in Arizona. The low is $25,000 in Illinois.
It’s important to have an experienced criminal attorney if you find yourself charged with a Class 3 felony. In some states, it’s possible to receive a community sentencing option such as home incarceration if the crime did not involve violence and you are a first offender. In Arizona, for example, probation is possible for first offenders who commit “non-dangerous” felonies. However, judges have the discretion to enhance sentences for Class 3 felonies if aggravating circumstances were present. In most states this includes a crime committed in a school zone, possession of a firearm while committing a felony and a crime committed to seek or retain gang membership. In Colorado, a crime of violence receives a more serious penalty than other crimes – up to twice the maximum pre-set penalty. In Illinois, enhanced penalties are possible if any of a number of circumstances is present, including a victim over the age of 60, prior convictions and the commission of a hate crime.
Loss of Rights and Benefits
As soon as you are convicted of a Class 3 felony, you will lose the following rights:
- Own or possess a firearm
- Vote – except for Colorado and Illinois
- Serve on a jury
- Hold some occupations, such as lawyer and accountant, that require state or federal licenses
- Qualify to run for state office
The collateral consequences of a Class 3 felony conviction can be life-altering. In most states, any felony results in the loss of the right to vote, own or possess a firearm, run for state office and receive a permit or license necessary for some jobs, including many in the healthcare field. While Illinois and Colorado do not technically exclude felons from jury service, experts say that it is very unlikely for someone with a criminal record to be chosen on a jury. In some states, such as Arizona, some of the civil rights lost by a Class 3 felony conviction are automatically restored when the sentence is completed. However, many civil rights can only be restored with an expungement or a pardon from the governor.
Employment and Housing with a Felony Record
Felons throughout the country have a difficult time finding housing and employment after being released from prison. The main issue is that potential employers and landlords have the right to check criminal histories of job and housing applicants. Many states have re-entry programs that provide incentives to employers to hire felons such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit in Nebraska. Experts recommend checking with state agencies and local charitable groups for names of employers and landlords with a history of dealing with felons.
Clearing Your Record
There are usually two to three options to restore some or all of the civil rights lost by a Class 3 felony conviction. Expungement is a process in which the record of a criminal conviction is actually removed. This option is more common for misdemeanors and is almost never an option for sex crimes or crimes of violence. Some states have set-aside laws. Setting aside a conviction involves proving to the court in which an offender was convicted that the crime should be forgiven. Set aside laws do not remove the details of the offense from the criminal record. A pardon from the governor is perhaps the most common way for someone with a felony conviction to clear their record. In many cases, a significant waiting period is required – such as 10 years as Nebraska. A criminal attorney can help you submit an application that highlights the ways in which you have changed your life and compelling reasons for the pardon.
Get the details on class 3 felony crimes and penalties in your state:
This article is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should consult a criminal defense attorney.