A felony in Massachusetts is a crime that is punishable by a term of one year or more in the state prison or by death. Massachusetts does not classify felony crimes into different classes; instead, each criminal statute includes the possible penalties for each individual felony. For some felony crimes, the statutes provide alternative sentences—a term in state prison or a shorter term in a house of corrections or a county jail.
Felonies in Massachusetts range from murder—the most serious felony crime in the state—to rape, assault, robbery, embezzlement, and food stamp trafficking— less serious felonies. Some specific examples of felonies and the possible penalties are as follows:
Massachusetts law requires that a criminal prosecution begin within a certain amount of time after a crime is committed or believed to have been committed. The criminal statute of limitations limits the length of time the state can wait before filing charges against a person. The length of time varies for different crimes and some, such as murder, have no time limit. For more information on the criminal statute of limitations, see Criminal Statutes of Limitations in Massachusetts.
A felony conviction becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another felony, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. Being a convicted felon can hurt you when you are looking for a job and applying to rent a house or apartment. Convicted felons lose the right to vote, to carry firearms, and to obtain certain professional licenses.
An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options, or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.