All felonies are categorized as being a crime of “high seriousness” and our legal code describes felonies as crimes “punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of a year”. Felony charges in New York State are prosecuted with a great deal of ferocity due to an overwhelming support by the New York citizenry for those laws and penalties that are “tough on crime”. It is a difficult fight to get felony charges in NY lowered as both prosecutors and jury’s tend to lean conservatively when it comes to any criminal offense.

A Class A felony (New York) is the highest degree of felony and is reserved for crimes such as murder or treason. In many states a Class A felony would involve use of capital punishment. In New York, the death penalty was abolished in 2007, so a NY felony of this type would now result in a life sentence, most often without the option of parole.

Other Class A felonies are aggravated murder, arson, terrorism, criminal possession of a chemical weapon, criminal possession of a controlled substance, kidnapping, or operating as a major trafficker. Each count must be in the first degree, except murder, which a Class A felony applies to the first and second degree. There is also a Class A-II felony which include predatory sexual assault and the second degrees of criminal possession and uses of a controlled substance.

New York State defines a felony as an offense for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of one year may be imposed. Jail sentences for a misdemeanor, violations or infraction are shorter. However, multiple convictions can extend jail time. Drug Felonies have their own sentencing guidelines. A Class A Felony (A-I and A-II) is usually the longest sentence, including life without parole, with the minimum amount of time to serve being between 15 and 40 years for Class A-I felony and minimally between 3 and 8 years for a Class A-II felony conviction. Most Class A felonies have indeterminate sentences.

Crimes committed of the Class A felonies are the following:

  • First degree murder
  • First-degree arson
  • Terrorism
  • First-degree criminal sale or possession of a controlled substance

Class A-II felonies:

  • Predatory sexual assault
  • Second-degree criminal use of a chemical or biological weapon
  • Second-degree criminal sale or possession of a controlled substance

If you are convicted of a felony offense in New York you face the possibility of years, or even decades, in prison, not to mention significant fines. If you learn that you are being investigated for or charged with a felony, your first action should be to contact a criminal defense attorney in your area. Only a local defense lawyer who has experience representing defendants in local criminal courts and who has dealt with local prosecutors can evaluate your case and give you legal advice.

The difference between a state felony conviction and a federal felony conviction is that the state uses classes and levels to categorize felons while the federal government felony conviction involves breaking a law at the national rather than local level. Federal felonies can be classified as being violent or nonviolent in nature while all state felonies are violent in nature.

One of the most high profile cases of murder was People of the State of California v. Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson where O.J. was tried on two counts of murder after the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Lyle Goldman, in June 1994. It has even been called the trial of the century. The case lasted eight months with Simpson hiring a high-profile defense team of Robert Shapiro. Johnnie Cochran, and Robert Kardashian with others. Led by Johnnie Cochran, the defense team alleged that there was police misconduct with the evidence and mishandled evidence. The jury found OJ not guilty as a result of this evidence by the defense. By the end of the criminal trial, national surveys showed dramatic differences in the assessment of Simpson’s guilt or innocence between most black and white Americans.