Class B Felony Definition
States divide crimes into misdemeanors and felonies, saving the most serious penalties – more than 1 year in prison – for felonies. Approximately one-third of all states in the country use a lettered classification system that includes Class B felonies. Whether the state is Alabama, Maine or South Dakota, these offenses are among the most serious on the books. Examples of Class B felonies throughout the country include:
- Manslaughter – 1st degree – Alabama
- Assault with serious injury – Hawaii
- Embezzlement – Maine
- Computer fraud – New Hampshire
- Voluntary manslaughter – Missouri
- Abuse of corpse – Oregon
Maximum and Minimum Sentences
All states have statutes that list presumptive sentences for Class B felonies. This is only the starting point for prosecutors because sentencing also involves a close look at the specific circumstances of every crime. Aggravating factors can trigger other laws that enhance penalties. The presumptive sentences for Class B felonies range from a low of up to 10 years in prison in states like Hawaii and Maine to up to 40 years in prison in Connecticut and a maximum of life in prison in both in South Dakota and North Carolina. Fines that can accompany prison sentences also range widely in Class B felony states – from a low $1,000 in Kentucky to a high of $250,000 in Oregon.
If you are accused of a Class B felony, you are facing a very lengthy prison term. Prosecutors will analyze the circumstances of your crime to point out factors that justify a lengthier sentence. Having an experienced criminal attorney to argue on your behalf and to explore the possibility of plea agreements can be invaluable. In general, the same aggravating factors will enhance a Class B felony sentence in most states. For example, a Class B battery in Arkansas that involves a child 4 years old or younger triggers a sentencing range of 10 to 40 years in prison instead of the normal 5 to 20 years for Class B felonies. In Connecticut, the use or possession of a firearm automatically adds a minimum sentence of 5 years to any Class B felony. If you are determined to be a “dangerous special offender” in North Dakota, the court can add a minimum of 4 years in prison to any Class B felony, which normally comes with an open-ended sentencing range of up to 20 years in prison. Prior convictions also will lead to stiffer penalties. For example, a defendant in Alabama with 3 or more prior felony convictions faces a minimum of 20 years in prison – instead of the normal 2 to 20 year presumptive range for Class B felonies.
Loss of Rights and Benefits
As soon as you are convicted of a Class B felony, you generally lose the following rights:
- Serve on a grand jury
- Work as a lawyer, barber, architect or accountant – including a variety of jobs in healthcare – because of required state or federal permits or licenses.
- Qualify for low-cost public housing
- Qualify for federal student loans
- Own or possess firearms
In some states, such as New York and North Dakota, the right to vote is automatically restored after the completion of the Class B felony sentence, along with the payment of any fine. However many other civil rights – including the right to own or possess firearms – often require an application in court or with parole or other state officials. A criminal defense attorney will know the procedure and help you to regain civil rights after you are released from prison.
Employment and Housing with a Felony Record
Why is it a risk for landlords and employers to take on felons? One issue is recidivism. National statistics show that more than half of all felons will commit another crime. Another issue is legal liability – if someone with a criminal record is hired and then commits a crime that impacts another employee, the employer could be the target of a civil lawsuit. Most states have programs that provide bonding to protect employers from legal liability as well as other incentives to hire felons. These programs usually offer the best chances for felons to find jobs and housing.
Clearing Your Record
Most people have no idea how many road blocks are the result of a felony conviction until they have one on their record. In North Carolina, for example, there are an estimated 900+ laws that limit the civil rights of someone with a felony conviction. Are you interested in a student loan or other government benefits? Virtually every state restricts those benefits to those without felony convictions. An expungement can wipe away all traces of most misdemeanors, but is not available for virtually any felony – from Arkansas to Connecticut to Maine – particularly serious Class B felony crimes. Most states do allow felons to apply for a pardon from the governor. It will definitely help to have the services of a criminal defense attorney because only a small percentage of pardon requests are granted around the country. An attorney will also be familiar with the application process, including the waiting period – 3 years in New York and 10 years for a crime of violence in North Dakota. In most states, a pardon or parole board investigates each request and a compelling reason – such as a job opportunity or an educational program, etc. – is usually needed to even have a chance.
Get the Details on Class B Felony Charges and Sentences in Your State:
This article is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney.