When most people think about crime, it's violent crimes that quickly come to mind. You don't have to know a lot about the law to know that violent crimes are the most serious criminal offenses possible. These are crimes that involve one person physically harming another, crimes that involve violence or threatened violence, as well as crimes with weapons or actions that endanger someone else's life or safety.
To determine what a felony violent crime is, let's start by identifying what makes a crime a felony and what classifies it as a violent offense.
Crimes are classified in terms of their severity as either felonies or misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are considered a less serious type of crime and they come with less serious consequences (usually jail time of a year or less). Felonies are the most significant type of crime and have more serious penalties associated with them (such as years in prison).
What differentiates a felony from a misdemeanor depends upon how a law classifies and penalizes it. State law might provide that a certain offense is a felony or impose a penalty of prison time for it (which makes it a felony). Typically, violent crimes fall into the category of felonies, though there are some that may constitute misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances of the case and the details of state law.
A violent crime is an offense wherein someone either physically harms someone else or threatens or uses violence while committing a crime. Violent crimes are also sometimes referred to as "offenses against the person" because they involve physical harm to someone else. For example, you can commit the violent crime of battery if you attack someone with your fists. You can also commit a violent crime if you threaten someone with violence in order to steal something from that person, known as robbery. It's important to note that it isn't necessary for you to actually engage in violence to be charged with or convicted of a felony violent crime.
Non-violent offenses often refer to property crimes, like theft, trespass, or property damage. They can also refer to offenses involving fraud, forgery, bribery, business crimes, and computer crimes. Some non-violent crimes can turn into crimes of violence depending on the target or intent. For instance, arson might be a non-violent offense if it involves an abandoned barn but a violent offense if it involves an occupied home.
There are a number of felony violent crimes, all of which have different potential penalties. The most common of these are criminal homicides, including murder and manslaughter; robbery, rape or sexual assault, battery and domestic violence, as well as kidnapping or false imprisonment. Some of these crimes can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors, while others, such as murder, are always felony offenses.
The law allows for the harshest possible penalties for violent felonies. A wide range of penalties is possible for each particular crime, and sentences differ widely depending on the circumstances of each case.
The death penalty, or capital punishment, is the most severe penalty possible and is imposed only against those convicted of murder, the most serious of violent felonies. (However, federal law also allows for the death penalty for treason crimes.) While not all states allow for capital punishment, those that do allow for it only in cases of murder.
Incarceration is a common penalty for those convicted of a violent felony. Felony offenses always have a potential prison sentence of a year or more. Depending on the particular crime involved, a conviction for a violent felony could result in a sentence of years, decades, or even life in prison.
Some people convicted of a violent felony can be sentenced to probation in addition to, or instead of, fines or prison time. A judge might consider probation for first-time offenders or offenses that don't result in serious harm to a victim. Probation usually lasts at least a year or longer, and during that time the person on probation must be sure to regularly report to a probation officer, stay out of trouble with the law, pay all fines and restitution, and meet any other conditions the court imposes.
Violent felonies also come with significant fines, though these too will differ depending on the circumstances of the case. A fine for a single conviction could be as much as $50,000, though much larger amounts are also possible.
A person convicted of a violent felony can also be required to pay restitution in addition to any fines. Restitution is paid to a victim to compensate that person for any medical expenses or other costs involved. Court costs or costs of prosecution can also be made a part of a restitution order.
Being charged with a violent felony is always a serious situation. State laws are particularly strict when it comes to violent crime. Your life can be permanently changed even if you are only investigated for one of these crimes and never charged or convicted. And a criminal conviction and record can result in loss of voting and firearm rights, on top of affecting your future ability to get a job, housing, or loan.
You need to seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area immediately upon learning that you are being investigated for or have been charged with any violent offense. Even speaking to the police without the presence of an attorney can seriously damage your case and permanently change the course of your life. Local attorneys will be able to guide you through the criminal justice process because they are experienced with the laws, judges, prosecutors, and police in your area.