In Washington, D.C., as in most U.S. states, felonies are crimes that carry a potential punishment of more than a year in prison. In contrast, misdemeanors in the District of Columbia are less-serious crimes that may be punished by no more than a year in jail.
Unlike many states, Washington, D.C. doesn’t group felonies into different classes for purposes of general sentencing (except for sentencing after revocation of parole). Rather, the statutes related to individual felonies spell out the maximum sentences for those crimes—and sometimes the minimum sentences.
The District of Columbia uses a system of indeterminate sentencing for felonies. That means that when a judge sentences you to imprisonment, the sentence will include both a minimum and maximum amount of time (within the legal limits for the crime), such as three to 10 years. The minimum term may not be longer than one-third of the maximum sentence (or no longer than 15 years when the maximum is life in prison). After you’ve served the minimum term, you’ll be eligible to be considered for release on parole. For certain felonies, the judge may impose a fine in addition to a prison sentence. Some other felonies allow a fine either in addition to or instead of a prison sentence.
When you’re sentenced to prison, the judge must also impose a period of supervision after you’re been released. The term of supervised release may not be longer than three years—or five years if the maximum prison sentence for that felony is 25 years of more. ((D.C. Code §§ 24-403, 24-403.01 (2020).)
Here are some examples of the sentences that the law in D.C. allows for certain felonies:
(D.C. Code §§ 22-404.01, 22-2104, 22-2801, 22-3002, 22-3212, 22-3134 (2020).)
Beyond the statutory penalties for individual crimes, the District of Columbia allows or requires stiffer penalties under certain conditions, including:
(D.C. Code §§ 22-1804, 22-1804a, 22-3601, 22-3611, 22-3701, 22-3703, 22-3751.01, 24-403 (2020).)
Unless you’ve been convicted of a crime that carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence, the judge may decide to suspend all or part of your sentence and place you on probation for up to five years. As a condition of probation for a felony, the judge may order you to remain in custody (which could be in a community correctional center) during nights, weekends, or another interval. (D.C. Code § 16-710 (2020).)
A felony conviction can have long-lasting, serious consequences. Even after you’ve served the sentence, having a felony on your record could make it difficult to get a job, find housing, or qualify for some government benefits. It could also subject you to stiffer penalties if you get in trouble with the law again. If you’re facing potential felony charges, you should speak to a local criminal defense lawyer immediately. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system, negotiate a favorable plea bargain if that’s appropriate, protect your rights, and help you reach the best outcome possible under the circumstances.