In Idaho, a felony is any crime that may be punished with prison sentence (or by death, in the case of first-degree murder). All other crimes are considered misdemeanors in Idaho. (Idaho Code § 18-111 (2020).)
Unlike many states, Idaho doesn’t group felonies into different classes for purposes of sentencing. Rather, the laws for most felonies give the maximum sentence for that crime—and sometimes a mandatory minimum sentence. Some felonies allow judges to impose a fine instead of or in addition to a prison sentence. If a law defines a crime as a felony but doesn’t designate the penalty, that crime will be punishable by up to five years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000. (Idaho Code § 18-112 (2020).)
If you’ve been convicted of a felony, the judge will hand down a sentence that spells out the minimum amount of time you must spend in prison before you can be eligible for parole. Beyond that minimum, the judge may also set an indeterminate sentence (meaning a range of time, such as five to 10 years), as long as the total amount of time isn’t more than the legal maximum sentence for that crime. You may be considered for parole during that indeterminate sentence. In first-degree murder cases, the jury must decide whether to impose the death penalty. (Idaho Code §§ 19-2513, 19-2515 (2020).)
If the victim suffered a financial loss as a result of a crime you committed, the judge may order you to pay restitution along with any other penalties. In addition, the judge may impose a civil fine of up to $5,000 for certain violent felonies; the money will go to the victim or the victim’s family. (Idaho Code §§ 19-5304, 19-5307 (2020).)
A few crimes in Idaho may be punished by a sentence in jail or prison. For instance, if you’re convicted of child abuse under circumstances that were likely to lead to serious injury, you may receive a sentence of either (1) up to one year in jail, or (2) a minimum of one year in prison, up to 10 years. If the judge hands down a jail sentence, the crime is considered a misdemeanor; if you get a prison sentence, you’ll have a felony on your record. (Idaho Code §§ 18-111, 18-1501 (2020).)
In addition, some misdemeanors become felonies with repeated convictions. For example, misdemeanor domestic violence is treated as a felony if you had two previous misdemeanor convictions for that crime or one previous felony conviction. (Idaho Code §18-918 (2020).)
To give you an idea of the range of potential felony sentences in Idaho, here are examples of the maximum penalties for some crimes:
(Idaho Code §§ 18-908, 18-2408, 18-4007, 18-6503, 37-2707, 37-2732 (2020).)
In addition to the standard sentences provided for individual felonies, Idaho requires longer maximum sentences and/or mandatory minimum sentences under certain circumstances, such as:
(Idaho Code §§ 18-905, 19-2514, 19-2520, 19-2520b, 19-2520c (2020).)
It’s state policy in Idaho for judges to consider placing convicted felons in the community rather than in prison, after considering various factors such as whether the defendant harmed or threatened the victim, has a criminal history, and would benefit from supervision in the community.
When you’ve been convicted of a felony other than murder or treason, the judge may choose one of the alternatives to a prison sentence, including:
If your judgment was withheld and you successfully complete your probation terms, you can petition to have your case dismissed; once the case is dismissed, that crime will not go on your record. (Idaho Code §§ 19-2521, 19-2601 (2020).)
Like other states, Idaho has criminal statutes of limitations, which are deadlines for filing criminal charges. In general, Idaho prosecutors must bring felony charges within five years after the crime was allegedly committed. But there are exceptions for some crimes, and there’s no time limit for prosecuting certain serious crimes like murder, child sexual abuse, and some kinds of rape. (Idaho Code §§19-401, 19-402 (2020).)
A felony conviction can have serious, long-term negative consequences. Even after you get out of prison, having a felony record can make it hard to get a job, rent a place to live, or get certain government benefits. It can also lead to harsher sentences if you are ever convicted of another crime, and you may lose your right to have a gun. If you’re facing felony charges, you should speak with a local criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system, negotiate a favorable plea bargain if that’s appropriate, and protect your rights so that you can reach the best outcome possible under the circumstances.
Look Out for Legal Changes
States can change their laws at any time, but you can find the current version of any statute mentioned in this article with the Idaho Legislature’s search tool. You should be aware, however, that court opinions can affect how laws are interpreted and applied—another good reason to talk to a lawyer whenever you're concerned about actual or potential criminal charges.