Like most other states, Pennsylvania divides criminal charges into categories based on their severity. The most severe crimes are designated as felonies in PA. Below is some information about felonies in the state of Pennsylvania, as well as the potential penalties, defenses, and more.
What Is a Felony?
A felony is a serious crime, often involving violence. Sex crimes also tend to qualify as felonies. Felony convictions usually lead to a prison sentence, which will typically be no less than one year. These crimes also come with a monetary fine. Charges that are significant but less serious than a felony, such as DUI, are categorized as misdemeanors. Misdemeanors come with less serious consequences for a conviction, such as probation, time in jail, and/or lower monetary fines. The least serious crimes in the state are summary offenses and include minor crimes like loitering.
How Are Felonies Classified?
The state of Pennsylvania classifies most felonies as first degree, second degree, or third degree. First degree felonies are the most serious and carry the most significant penalties, while third degree felonies are the least serious. It is important to note that felony murder is its own classification and follows its own sentencing guidelines.
What Crimes Are Considered Felonies in PA?
Most of the crimes that qualify as felonies in the state of Pennsylvania are violent in nature.
First degree felonies include:
- Theft of property valued at more than $500,000
- Assault with evidence or threats of serious bodily injury
- Arson (with endangering a person)
- Home burglary
Second degree felonies include:
- Theft of property valued between $100,000 and $500,000
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated indecent assault
- Assault with a deadly weapon (without injury)
- Statutory sexual assault
- Burglary of commercial property
Third degree felonies include:
- Theft of property valued between $2,000 and $100,000
- Possession of child pornography
- Possession of a drug with intent to distribute
- Certain gun offenses
- Institutional sexual assault of a minor
Murder is always a felony and can be categorized as first degree murder, second degree murder, or third degree murder, depending on the circumstances.
It is important to note that similar charges can fall into vastly different categories. For example, in Pennsylvania, simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor, but aggravated assault is a second-degree felony. If you have been accused of assault, the facts of your case will determine where your charge falls. For this reason, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the relevant law and can have your charges reduced if the evidence shows your charge is unfair.
Pennsylvania Felony Sentencing Guidelines
The sentence you will face if you are convicted of a felony will depend on the felony’s class, the discretion of the court, your criminal record, and other factors. However, the general guidelines for felony sentencing are:
- First degree felony conviction — Up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000
- Second degree felony conviction — Up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000
- Third degree felony conviction — Up to 7 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000
Possible Outcomes in Felony Cases
Not all felony cases lead to the maximum sentence. The ultimate outcome of your case will depend on many things, including the nature of your charges and the competence of your attorney. Your attorney will give you advice about your case, so you can make the best decisions and maximize your chances of avoiding a conviction.
If you choose to plead guilty without a plea bargain, the court will determine your sentence based on sentencing guidelines and other factors. If you choose to accept a plea agreement, however, your charges may be reduced and/or your sentence may be determined in advance.
If you choose to plead not guilty, the case will go to trial. During the trial, the prosecution and law enforcement will present their evidence and try to convince the court of your guilt. Your defense attorney will also have a chance to present evidence in hopes of defending you and avoiding a guilty verdict. At the end of the trial, the court will determine whether to convict you of the charges. If you are convicted, you will be sentenced based on sentencing guidelines and the court’s discretion. If you are not convicted, you will be free to go without any prison time or fines.
Criminal Defense for Felony Charges
If you have been charged with a felony offense in Pennsylvania, hiring a qualified attorney is essential in order to protect your legal rights and ensure you have the best possible outcome in your case. As soon as you become aware of the charge, you should contact an attorney immediately so you can begin building your defense. Your attorney’s job will be to review the charges against you, explain how the state law applies in your case, and give you customized advice. In some cases, your attorney may advise you to accept a plea bargain. In other cases, the attorney may recommend fighting the charges in court. If the case goes to trial, your attorney will collect evidence and build a strong defense. They will also provide the support you need as you face this difficult situation.
For more information about felonies in Pennsylvania, please contact our office today.