Being charged with a crime of any type is scary and unnerving, but when the crime is a felony, it can be particularly frightening. You may have dozens of questions swirling in your head, but primary among them is likely “Will I go to jail?” When compared to misdemeanor charges, felony charges usually come with the biggest potential for incarceration, which means that hiring a Westmoreland County felony charges attorney who knows the ropes of the criminal justice system is a must. A seasoned attorney offers you your best hope in fighting the charges against you.
Classification of Felony Charges
In Pennsylvania, as in most states, offenses are distinguished not just by felony and misdemeanor classifications, but also by gradation into first, second and third degrees. The most serious offenses are first-degree felonies, while the least serious are third-degree felonies. All are significant and come with the possibility of jail time and steep fines. Although sentences imposed vary widely depending on a number of factors, the maximum potential sentences for felony crimes by degree are broken down as:
- First-degree. Up to 20 years incarceration and up to $25,000 in fines. Examples of first-degree felonies are kidnapping, rape and arson that endangers a person.
- Second-degree. Up to 10 years incarceration and up to $25,000 in fines. Indecent or statutory sexual assault and burglary of a vacant structure are examples of second-degree felonies in Pennsylvania.
- Third-degree. Up to seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. Some third-degree felonies are terroristic threatening, carrying a firearm without a permit and reckless burning.
Some charges in the state of Pennsylvania come with mandatory minimum, which ties the courts hands when it is time to hand out the penalty to the convicted. For instance, there is a mandatory minimum of two years in jail for first- and second-degree aggravated assault. First-degree rape comes with a mandatory minimum of five years in jail.
Prior Criminal Record
Your prior criminal history also has a lot to do with how much time you can potentially receive behind bars for a felony charge. For instance, if you have a previous conviction for a violent offense, and you are convicted a second time for a similar violent offense, then the court is mandated to impose a sentence of at least 10 years incarceration. If you have two violent offense convictions on your record, then the court must give you a sentence of 25 years minimum under the law, which is known as the Third Strike law.