Felony charges in Massachusetts: FAQs
You likely know that there are felony and misdemeanor charges and that a felony is generally a more serious offense. In most cases, this is all you may need to know. However, if you find yourself or a loved one facing allegations of criminal wrongdoing you likely have a lot of questions. The following will dive into some of the most common questions asked when facing felony charges.
#1: What is a felony?
Massachusetts law defines a felony as a “crime punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison.” Any other crime is a misdemeanor. It is important to note that the court does not need to actually sentence the accused to a state prison for it to count as a felony. The mere possibility is enough for the charge to qualify as a felony.
Some common examples of felony charges in Massachusetts can include drug charges and violent offenses like murder, kidnapping, rape, and aggravated assault and battery.
#2: Can I get a sentence if I am not charged with a felony?
Yes. It is still possible to get sentenced even if you are not charged with a felony. Certain misdemeanors can result in years of sentencing to a county house of corrections.
#3: What is the difference between a county house of corrections and a state prison?
A county house of correction is a detention facility used for the sentencing of misdemeanors. The county jail and house of correction are often within the same facility. The jail houses those who cannot post or get bail before their trial, material witnesses and others convicted by the court for contempt.
The sentences within a county house of corrections are generally 2 ½ years or less per charge.
A state prison is a correctional facility operated by the Department of Corrections. There are many in Massachusetts, including the Massachusetts Correction Institution (MCI).
#4: What penalties come with a felony charge?
The exact details will vary depending on the charges but can include prison time, hefty financial penalties, and loss of constitutional rights like voting or the ability to have a firearm.
There is also the impact of the social stigma that can come with a conviction. This can make it difficult to find employment and housing. The conviction can also make it difficult to get scholarships and pursue higher levels of education.
#5: What should I do if charged with a felony?
It is important to carefully review the allegations. Massachusetts and federal law require the police and the prosecution team to follow certain rules and regulations when building these charges. If they fail to do so, you can argue for the dismissal of the charges. If the charges move forward, it is important to tailor a defense strategy to your specific situation. This can also result in a dismissal or a reduction of charges.
It is also important to note that although the penalties for misdemeanor charges may seem less severe the social stigma is still an issue if the charge leads to a conviction. As such, it is a good idea to reach out to legal counsel whether or facing a misdemeanor or felony charge.