What Is a Felony?

A felony is a serious criminal offense punishable by one or more penalties. It is more serious than a misdemeanor and carries harsher penalties under the Pennsylvania criminal code

Felonies are the most serious crimes a person can commit in Pennsylvania. Therefore, they are punished by longer prison sentences, higher fines, and loss of certain freedoms even after being released from prison. 

What Are the Classes of Felonies and Associated Penalties in Pennsylvania?

What Are the Classes of Felonies and Associated Penalties in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania classifies felonies by degree. There are three degrees of felonies. The punishment you receive depends on the type of offense and the degree of the offense. 

For example, murder is one of the most serious felony offenses you can be charged with in Pennsylvania. However, there are three degrees of murder, with first-degree murder being the most serious offense. First-degree murder is a capital offense; therefore, you could be sentenced to life in prison or death.

Second-degree murder is less serious but still carries a maximum sentence of up to life in state prison for a guilty verdict. Third-degree murder carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 40 years.

Related criminal offenses to murder are also felony charges. For instance, solicitation and conspiracy to commit murder also carry up to a 40-year prison term. Attempted murder can be punished by up to 40 years in prison, but if the attempt did not result in serious bodily injury, the maximum sentence is 20 years in state prison.

Generally, a first-degree non-murder felony is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. Second-degree felony convictions can result in fines up to $25,000 and up to ten years in prison. Third-degree felonies carry a fine of up to $15,000 and prison sentences of up to seven years. 

What Factors Can Impact a Felony Sentence in Pennsylvania?

There are minimum and maximum sentences for felony convictions. A judge may consider numerous factors when deciding the severity of a felony sentence. 

For example, the judge considers an offender’s criminal record. If the defendant is a repeat offender or has a history of criminal offenses, the judge might impose a higher fine and longer prison term. 

Like many other states, Pennsylvania has a Three Strikes Law. If you are convicted of three violent crimes, a judge must sentence you to no less than 25 years in prison for the third conviction. 

The judge could also impose a life sentence for a third strike. 

Examples of violent crimes that could result in a third strike include, but are not limited to:

  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Kidnapping, robbery
  • Battery
  • Rape
  • Aggravated assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Robbery

Many felonies are classified as violent crimes because they involve the use of or risk of force and bodily harm. 

In addition to your criminal history, the judge may also consider aggravating factors. Aggravating factors are specific circumstances that increase the severity of a crime. Examples of aggravating circumstances include:

  • Using a weapon or firearm to commit a crime
  • The crime results in injury or death to another person
  • The type and severity of a victim’s injuries
  • The crime is designated as a hate crime, including crimes based on a victim’s religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, age, national origin, etc.
  • A victim is a vulnerable person, including children, senior citizens, and individuals with mental and physical disabilities
  • The defendant is a repeat offender for the same offense
  • Whether the defendant had a role in planning the crime

The prosecution must prove the aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt before the aggravating factor can be used to enhance a sentence. However, a prior conviction does not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be used to enhance a sentence.

Collateral Consequences of a Felony Conviction 

In addition to fines and prison terms, you may experience several collateral consequences of a felony conviction. With a felony conviction on your criminal record, you may experience repercussions, including not being able to:

  • Run for public office
  • Own or possess a firearm
  • Qualify for college financial aid
  • Serve on a jury
  • Qualify for specific government benefits

Additionally, a felony conviction could impact a child custody case or visitation. For example, a family court judge might find that you are unfit to have custody or that your visitation with your child should be supervised. Felony convictions can also impact your career choices and housing options.

If you are arrested on felony charges, it is in your best interest not to talk to the police or a prosecutor without a lawyer present. As soon as possible, contact a West Chester criminal lawyer to discuss your case. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyers 

All criminal charges are serious. Contact our Dicindio Law, LLC office for a free consultation with our experienced West Chester criminal defense attorney at (610) 430-3535. We can begin developing a criminal defense strategy to fight the criminal charges against you.