Can Misdemeanor Charges Become Felony Charges in Pennsylvania?
While all criminal charges are serious, standing in a courtroom facing misdemeanor charges is a very different experience than looking down the barrel of a felony sentence. Not only do felonies carry heavier penalties they can also mean losing certain privileges, such as the right to own a registered firearm, and professional licenses. Depending on the surrounding circumstances of a case and other factors, a crime like assault could be bumped from a misdemeanor to a felony. Understanding how serious criminal charges can arise from circumstances is the first step in avoiding the potential imposition of harsh criminal penalties.
How a Misdemeanor Can Become a Felony in Pennsylvania
First, let’s evaluate our example crime: assault. Simple assault in the state of Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor that can carry a penalty of one to five years of prison. However, if new evidence were to arise which shows that the attack involved a deadly weapon, or that the attack was perpetrated against a child who is under the age of 12, the charges are likely to escalate to aggravated assault, a more serious offense.
According to 18 Pa. Code § 27-2702, this crime is classified as a second degree felony, with a potential sentence of up to ten years in prison if the defendant is found guilty. If additional evidence reveals that a previously unidentified victim is a public servant -like a police officer or member of the fire department-, the crime escalates to the highest level: a first degree felony with a potential sentence of up to 20 years in state prison.
Factors That Can Transform a Misdemeanor into a Felony
There are several circumstances that can affect whether a defendant stands to face either a misdemeanor or a felony. These special circumstances can also play a great role during a possible negotiation towards a plea bargain.
Some of these factors include:
Previous criminal record: A previous criminal record on the part of the accused might sway the prosecution to go for a heavier charge instead of a less serious offense.
Role in the crime: The leader of a group of people that committed a crime is more likely to face felony charges than those who had a minor or accessory role.
Hate crimes: If the defendant was believed to have committed a crime with a biased motivation towards a specific group, there’s a high likelihood of felony charges being filed.
How DUI Offenses Are Classified
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offenses can have a broad range of punishments that range from a fine to years of incarceration and license suspensions. The severity of the punishment is determined by past convictions and the conditions surrounding the crime including the blood alcohol level (BAC) of the driver and whether any accidents or injuries resulted.
Under proper counsel, first-time DUI offenders are very likely to avoid prison time and having a criminal record to deal with. However, if the DUI driver was involved in an accident that caused an injury which was previously unreported, they are now facing a felony charge of up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 and a suspension of their license for one year. There are other situations where charges for a DUI can transform into an even more serious felony matter that an experienced DUI attorney can thoroughly explain.
How Theft is Classified
The amount allegedly stolen guides the level of theft and larceny charges. Stealing an item worth less than $2,000 is a crime that generally falls under the misdemeanor category. However conditions surrounding the crime can increase the harshness of the charges and penalty. If new evidence suggests that within the items stolen there was a concealed firearm, or a value appraisal sets the value of the item above the $2,000 mark, then the accused faces a second degree felony, according to 18 Pa. Code § 39-3921.
If found guilty on a second-degree felony, the person facing this charge could be looking at up to seven years of imprisonment. However, this could vary with regards to the circumstances of the case, previous convictions and the type of property stolen.
Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys Will Fight for You
Any kind of crime, no matter how serious, should be dealt with an experienced attorney by your side. If you require an attorney in Pennsylvania, contact the offices of Young, Marr & Associates today to arrange a consultation. Call (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania or contact our firm online and speak to a criminal defense attorney before it is too late.