What Is a Class 6 Felony?
In addition to dividing crimes between felonies and misdemeanors, all states also divide felonies into categories. Four states – Colorado, South Dakota, Arizona and Virginia – have at least six different classes for felonies. In each state, Class 1 felonies include more serious crimes while Class 6 felonies are among the least serious felonies in the state. Examples of Class 6 felonies throughout the country include:
- Possession of up to 2 ounces of methamphetamines – Colorado
- Receipt of a stolen firearm – Virginia
- Internet gambling – South Dakota
- Recklessly handling a dangerous weapon – Arizona
- Sale of child pornography – South Dakota
Maximum and Minimum Sentences
The presumptive sentence for a Class 6 felony is close to the minimum felony sentence possible – 1 year in prison. For example, Colorado laws call for a range of between 1 year and 18 months and South Dakota has a maximum of 2 years in prison. The stiffest penalty is in Virginia with a range of 1 to 5 years. Fines, which can be for restitution or in some cases instead of or in addition to the prison term, range from a maximum of $2,500 in Virginia and $4,000 in South Dakota to as much as $50,000 in Arizona and up to $100,000 in Virginia.
It is possible for any felony to be enhanced if certain aggravating factors are present. That includes Class 6 felonies, even though they are the least serious felonies on the books. For example, any crime of violence in Colorado automatically qualifies for an enhanced sentence. The Legislature there has defined a crime of violence as one that includes the use or threat of a deadly weapon. Similarly, prior convictions will lead to enhanced penalties in all states. In Arizona, a person facing a Class 6 felony with two or more previous felony convictions must be sentenced to a minimum of 3 years in prison. It is just as common for Class 6 felonies to qualify for diversion or alternative sentencing options, as long as the crime did not involve violence and the offender had no previous convictions. In Arizona, a judge can designate a Class 6 felony as a Class 1 misdemeanor for sentencing purposes, depending on the circumstances of the crime. An experienced criminal attorney can help to negotiate a sentence that minimizes prison time, or even better, avoids any time in prison and results in a dismissed charge after a diversion program or other community sentencing is completed.
Loss of Rights and Benefits
As soon as you are convicted of a Class 6 felony, you generally lose the following rights:
- Qualify to run for public office
- Own or possess a firearm
- Receive permits or licenses needed for various occupations, including lawyer, accountant and many healthcare positions.
A felony conviction automatically leads to the loss of many civil rights. While voting and owning a firearm are the best known collateral consequences, most states have dozens or more specific laws that limit opportunities for felons. Drug-related crimes can affect a person’s ability to qualify for low-income housing and Food Stamps, among other benefits.
Employment and Housing with a Felony Record
One national study in 2010 showed that 92 percent of all employers check the criminal records of applicants before making hiring decisions. Any felony will make it much more difficult to land jobs or housing and convictions for crimes of violence or crimes involving children are particularly difficult to overcome. Felons can increase their odds of getting a job or housing by checking with state labor or similar agencies for the names of individuals and companies participating in federal and state programs that provide incentives to hire and to choose felons as tenants.
Clearing Your Record
Even in a state where some civil rights are automatically restored, such as Arizona and South Dakota, a felony conviction can continue to have a negative impact as long as it remains on a person’s criminal records. Many of the states with Class 6 felonies have expungement laws; however, it is very unusual for felony convictions to be expunged. However, most states allow misdemeanor convictions to be expunged. A criminal attorney can negotiate to reduce a Class 6 felony to a misdemeanor so that the crime can be expunged and removed from the offender’s criminal record. In Arizona, judges have the discretion to designate a Class 6 felony as a Class 1 misdemeanor, as long as aggravating factors are not present. That opens up the possibility of having the crime expunged. Another way to clear a Class 6 felony conviction is to apply for a pardon from the governor. This usually involves a waiting period of 3 to 5 years or more and requires a compelling reason.
The information contained above is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice you should visit an attorney.