What is a Class D Felony?
Every state divides crimes between felonies and misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are less serious and punishable by no more than 1 year in jail. Felonies are punishable by at least 1 year in prison and often much more. In addition to dividing crimes into two categories, states also divide felonies into categories. About one third of all states use a system that includes Class D. The seriousness of a Class D crime varies from state to state. Class D felonies throughout the country include:
- Burglary – 2nd degree – Delaware
- Felony drunk driving – Kentucky
- Larceny – valued at $20,000 or more – Michigan
- Train robbery – North Carolina
- Child enticement – Wisconsin
Maximum and Minimum Sentences
The pre-set sentencing range for Class D felonies varies from state to state – often depending on whether Class D is the lowest felony class or not. A number of states are similar to Arkansas, with up to 6 years in prison and Delaware, which has a maximum penalty for a Class D felony of up to 8 years in prison. In states where there are more than four felony classes, the pre-set ranges are usually higher. This includes Michigan, where a Class D felony is one of eight felony classes, and the range is up to 10 years in prison. Wisconsin has the highest maximum penalty for Class D felonies, up to 25 years in prison. Courts also can hand out fines in addition to prison sentences in Class D felony cases. These range from $100,000 in Wisconsin to $5,000 in a number of states, including Tennessee, Connecticut, and Missouri.
An experienced criminal attorney can make all the difference in potentially getting a reduced or suspended sentence for a Class D felony or spending time in prison and living with a criminal record. The advantage to prosecutors is that many jails are overcrowded and alternative sentences such as probation, home incarceration or diversion programs don’t add to the jail population. Probation and other community sentencing options are available in Delaware if the felony was not a crime of violence. However, all states also have laws that make it possible to enhance Class D felonies if aggravating factors are present. For example, someone who commits a second-degree assault in Connecticut with a firearm must serve at least one year in prison – probation or community sentencing is not an option. In Iowa, someone determined to be a habitual offender automatically adds 3 years to any sentence, while in Nevada, three prior felony convictions gives the court a discretion of imposing up to a life sentence.
Loss of Rights and Benefits
As soon as you are convicted of a Class D felony, you generally lose the following rights:
- Serve on a jury
- Own or possess firearms
- Qualify for low-cost public housing
- Hold some occupations, such as lawyer and accountant – many positions in the healthcare field, which require state or federal licenses
A number of collateral consequences come with a single felony conviction. While it’s possible to seek a pardon, the waiting period can be lengthy and pardons, in general, are given out rarely in all states. The best scenario is to rely on a criminal attorney to reduce your Class D felony sentence or to negotiate a sentence that ends with the charge being dismissed from your criminal record. While some civil rights are restored as soon as the sentence for the crime is served, others are not handled that easily.
Employment and Housing with a Felony Record
A felony conviction is a serious issue for potential employers and landlords. Many fear that the presence of one conviction means a person is pre-disposed to crime and more likely to commit another at some point. Experts say it is helpful to rely on state agencies, such as the Tenant Resource Center in Wisconsin or the Nevada Office of Training and Rehabilitation, for the names of companies and individuals in your area that have a history of accepting felons. State agencies are familiar with re-entry programs that offer tax credits and other incentives to potential landlords and employers.
Clearing Your Record
While an expungement can wipe away all traces of a felony, it is usually not available for felonies. That’s the case in Nevada, Delaware, Iowa, and a number of other states. To restore civil rights that aren’t automatically renewed after completing a felony sentence, the best chance is usually a pardon. It is a good idea to have a criminal attorney help you with the application because pardons are rare events in most states and a persuasive application will give you the best chance. A lawyer also will be familiar with any waiting periods. For example, there is no required waiting period in Iowa, but officials recommend waiting at least 5 years after completing a felony sentence. The same is true in Wisconsin while the law mandates a 12-year waiting period in Nevada. The information contained above is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should visit an attorney.
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