While people often think of felonies as only being violent crimes such as robbery or theft, there are actually a number of crimes that are just as serious that just a normal person may suddenly find themselves accused of. For instance, if you’re out on a snowmobile one day and accidentally get lost in the woods, you could end up being charged with a felony if you end up on federally protected land.
It turns out that there are any number of bizarre ways a regular person with no criminal intent whatsoever may actually find themselves being charged with a felony. If you find yourself facing a felony charge, here are some setbacks you might encounter.
Because the penalties for felonies are so much higher than misdemeanors, there is a greater chance that those accused of a felony will run. Because of that, courts often set very high bail, often running several thousands of dollars. While it isn’t mandatory to post bail, it is the only way for an accused person awaiting trial to get out of jail before their appearance in court. It is much harder to prepare for a case from a cell, so it’s usually a good idea to post bail.
Since most people can’t afford to pay a cash bond on a whim, they will generally have to use a bail bondsman to get more or all of the money. A bail bondsman takes a percentage of the bond in cash, which they keep as their fee, and will take collateral for the rest. This collateral may be a home or a car, so if the individual does not show up for court, they or the person that signed for their bond will forfeit their property to the bondsman. This process can cause serious financial strain and future instability.
You Could Remain in Jail
If an individual cannot afford bail even with a bondsman, they will generally have to remain in jail until their trial. In some cases, this may be as little as 30 to 60 days, but in some cases, it could potentially be as long as a year, depending on the prosecutor. For instance, if the prosecutor feels they can actually make a stronger case by waiting, they may file for a number of extensions with the court. If you can’t make bail, you get to stay in jail for all of it.
Obviously, becoming removed from your job, family, and everything else in your life can cause some serious problems. While you may have a certain amount of legal protection or family coverage when it comes to bills, your job may not be protected. Some employers will be understanding, but others may not have sympathy for your being detained on felony charges and terminate your employment.
For indigent individuals, the court is obligated to appoint you an attorney. If you have the means to appoint an attorney, however, the court generally requires that you do. Of course, you always have the option to represent yourself, but considering the stiff penalties you face for most felonies, it is highly inadvisable that you do so. Even if you qualify for a court-appointed attorney, it’s not always advisable that you take that option either.
Court-appointed attorneys are often unpaid or underpaid for their time and may have a large caseload. This may mean that they don’t have time to prepare a rock-solid defense and may instead try for a plea deal for reduced punishment, which almost always means pleading guilty and the felony going on your record for life.
A paid attorney may also try to get a plea bargain and advise you to take it if you get a good one. If you have any interest in a not guilty verdict, generally the only way to get one is by going through the entire court procedure which can be long and costly.
Obviously, a felony comes with consequences that can affect the rest of your life. Beyond the felony charges, you can easily find yourself in financial trouble, without a job, and even without a home. The moral of the story: educate yourself about obscure felonies and avoid criminal activity at all costs.