It’s been over 20 years since I committed a felony but it still haunts me like it was yesterday. It pops up to say hello when I’m filling out an application for anything, getting insurance, registering for committees and even if I want to volunteer. It is an eternal cloud that looms often making it hard to see the sunlight
It’s hard to get patriotic and care about politics when you can’t even participate in something as simple as voting. The very few people I tell that I have a background are shocked and in disbelief that a successful business owner, Christian woman, loving wife and homeless shelter volunteer would have committed a crime but I did.
There is no one “type” of person that commits crimes or breaks the law. Most everyone has broken the law in some way. Few are unaware they have even committed a crime and then there are those who never get caught in the process.
Remember that time you were speeding to get to work and proceeded to run a red light, or when you attended a party got buzzed and drove those few miles home and even that time you crossed the road in the middle and not at the crosswalk. Guess what you broke the law.
Yes you have your “would be” stereotypical thugs, rebellious youth, petty thieves and criminal masterminds but average everyday people……do they commit crimes?
First, you have look at “what is a crime?” and “what is considered a crime?” Basically any act that breaks the law and has a penalty or consequence is a crime. Crimes and punishments differ depending on the city, state and country you live in. All crimes can be broken down into two categories: felony crime and misdemeanors. Then you can familiarize yourself with “what is a felony?” and “what is a misdemeanor?”
Once you grasp the severity, differences, and types then you can better understand how someone can commit a crime. You may even find out if you’ve committed a crime unaware. The most severe crimes that will follow you for the rest of your life (I am speaking from personal experience) are felonies.
Felony crimes carry higher fines, stiffer punishments, loss of certain civil rights and some even have mandatory jail time.
Additionally felonies have sub categories ranging from first degree to fourth degree identified by the crime committed. Then there are less severe crimes referred to as misdemeanors which carry lighter punishments.
Now your next question is probably “what are the most common felonies and misdemeanors?” Let’s start with felonies, most people initially think of murder, rape or something violently heinous first but there are quite a few felonies that are non-violent. Murder and rape are not even in the top 5 of most committed felonies.
The felony that appears on my record is actually one step away from a misdemeanor (lowest felony possible) and is non-violent, it was forgery. Yes for signing a simple piece of paper when I was 18, I’ve had to carry around a scarlet A or F for felony in my case. Ok let’s address common misdemeanors first:
- Basic assault
- Public Intoxication or indecent exposure
- Petty theft or shoplifting
- Disorderly conduct
I’m guessing you want some examples of what all this legal jargon means so I’ll break it down.
Let’s say you get mad at a bar and push or slap someone but it doesn’t cause real visible injury and there is no blood loss or wounds then that is basic assault.
Now if you decide to leave that bar and you’re drunk and you continue to drink outside at a park, store or maybe you fall down and create a disturbance or even pee on the side of a building, then that is public intoxication or indecent exposure.
So you’re taking a walk and you see a posted “NO TRESPASSING” sign and you ignore it and go onto private land or property then you have just committed trespassing. Let’s say you’re hungry and you go to the store to buy a snickers and you grab your favorite magazine but you don’t pay for it, then my friends that is shoplifting or petty theft.
Lastly let’s say you stayed in that bar but got into a heated argument and started a fight or broke a glass or yelled profanity and racial slurs then you have a disorderly conduct charge.
Now we are moving up to what crimes are felonies. The following are a list of the most common felonies:
- Drug cases, drug possession or distribution and manufacturing
- Driving while intoxicated/driving under the influence – DWI or DUI
- Property Crime (arson, burglary, grand theft auto, theft)
Again I’ll give you a breakdown of this felony list so you get a better understanding of the terminology.
Some of the felony crime categories are broad and have several types of charges under one heading. Drug cases, that is pretty self-explanatory and can range from possession on yourself or property, distributing or selling and then manufacturing or cooking of drugs. DWI or DUI is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and there are legal limits, breathalyzers and several factors.
You have to be very careful even if you don’t feel drunk the law may say you are drunk. Then you have property crime and that has many “sub crimes” under one title. This includes arson, auto theft, burglary and the key here is there is no force against a person.
So no you can’t set your neighbor’s car on fire or steal their bike and you surely can’t break into their home or you’ll find yourself committing a property crime. Larceny is next and this is theft of too but it involves an actual victim (person or business). For example if you steal someone’s purse, take an expensive painting from a museum or pickpocket someone on the subway then you’ve committed larceny.
Finally, you have assault and this differs from the “basic assault” in the misdemeanor category. Assault is more severe and there is bodily injury and in some cases there is a weapon involved.
Discovering and learning about all the types of felonies and misdemeanors helps you understand how someone can or even think about committing a crime. I’m not defending people who commit crimes and I’m certainly not saying repeat offenders deserve sympathy.
What I am saying is sometimes people make mistakes, sometimes hardships come and you reach the end of your rope and in other cases you may not even know it was illegal.
Society and government sets up punishments for committing crimes. Punishments for crimes can range from a fine, probation, community service, anger management or group therapy, rehab, restitution, incarceration or jail time and in the most extreme cases death.
The penalty should fit the crime but in some cases an innocent or stupid mistake can ruin a life or make it impossible to feel like you can start again.
It takes a really strong and determined person to move past a felony crime. They system says it gives you a second chance but in reality society will not. At times you feel like a leper.
There are people in this world with malice in their hearts and they want to take the easy road, they want to commit crimes or hurt people. In those cases the law should protect the innocent and its community.
However, on the other hand there are exceptions to every rule and people who will only make a mistake once but with a record once is enough to knock you down for the count.
Let’s take a single mother who sees her baby crying and has no food, diapers or formula and payday is 3 more days away. So she writes a check and hopes the store doesn’t cash it right away but they do. Circumstances lead her to getting a “hot check” a misdemeanor crime (depending on amount) and now she has to suffer the consequences.
Then the 64 year old veteran used up his monthly stipend, he still has to pay for part of his prescriptions, he lost his glasses and his car has just broken down. He needs a little cash to make it another week, so he puts on a mask and covers his hand with a bag hoping it will pass for a gun. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone but he is panicking and so he commits a felony. In his mind it’s the only option.
Law and punishments are designed to put fear of consequence within us so we don’t commit the crime in the first place. Usually it works but there are always exceptions to the rules. Put yourself in the toughest situation you can imagine and then visualize if you’d ever break the law.
I guess by now you want to know about my story, why I committed a crime. No it wasn’t hardship or desperation, it was being completely naïve about the law. It was mere ignorance to what a felony was, what it could do and how it would hurt.
I was 18 and I knew nothing about the law or crimes. If I had rest assured I would have went to court and fought the charge and not signed a quick plea deal to avoid the stress of it all.
Everyone should know the law, their rights and what crimes are so they can be better prepared to protect their future and themselves.