If a person is convicted of a crime for which the punishment is a year or more in prison or death, he or she has committed a felony. In the United States, people who commit the most serious crimes, such as murder, armed robbery, or rape, are called felons. In some cases, the crime may only become a felony if a certain amount of money is stolen; if the defendant can be found guilty of possessing criminal intent; or if someone dies while a crime, such as a home invasion, is being committed. In addition, sometimes a crime is only considered a felony if the defendant is taken to prison or to the penitentiary. If the defendant is taken to jail, the crime may be considered a misdemeanor instead.
A felony is the most serious form of crime in the United States; however, in other countries, the terminology is no longer used. For example, in 1967, the terms felony and its counterpart, misdemeanor, were abolished in England and the other countries of the Commonwealth. In Canada, the term indictable offense is used instead. In addition, those found guilty of the more serious crimes are prosecuted in Canada’s federal courts, rather than provincial courts, as well. The term felony is still used in Hungary, Turkey, Kenya, and Fiji.
If a person is found guilty of committing a felony, he or she will have stricter restrictions on his or her lifestyle than a person found guilty of committing a lesser crime. For example, in some jurisdictions, a person convicted of a felony may not serve on a jury or vote. In other jurisdictions, a felon may not be employed as a teacher, doctor, or caregiver. In addition, felons may not legally own a gun. If the person is convicted of a sex crime or other violent crime, many jurisdictions require that the felon register as an offender.
People who have been convicted of a felony in the United States will find that they will not be able to travel freely to other countries. For example, someone with a criminal record may find that he or she is prevented from entering Canada without a special waiver. In addition, Qatar requires that foreign travelers produce a police certificate that shows they have a clean criminal record before they can enter the country. Bosnia and Herzegovina have similar practices for foreigners wanting to extend their stay.
In some places, such as California, there are laws that require people who have been previously convicted of a felon to serve a longer prison sentence, if he or she commits three felonies. It is called the three strikes rule. Depending on the jurisdiction, there are many different permutations of this law. A good criminal law attorney will be able to explain the law to those people interested in learning more about it in their area.