There are only a handful of states in the United States that rely on a numbered system when considering felonies. Four of those states, South Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, and Virginia, have at least six classes for various felonies. When you’re talking about a class 5 felony, in those states at least, you’re talking about something that is more than just one step away from being a misdemeanor.
So what is a class 5 felony?
In truth, it all depends on the state in which you live, as those other remaining states that actually do classify felonies in a numbered sequence will list a class 5 felony as being just one step above a misdemeanor.
For the most part, a level 5 felony in most states provides a foundation for a sentencing range that begins, on average, between 1 ½ and 2 years in prison. Every state is going to classify its sentencing guidelines differently, based on their particular preferences and how they define such crimes.
A class 5 felony is ranked among the lowest classifications of felonies and it is possible for a person who has been convicted of this type of felony to avoid prison altogether. A Virginia class 5 felony would be considered a ‘wobbler’ because they can vary back and forth between felonies and misdemeanors.
What consideration will be made when filing a felony or misdemeanor charge in certain situations? The most important factor has to do with particular circumstances that surround the crime.
Why worry about whether it is considered a felony or misdemeanor? Even though a class 5 felony may be only one or two steps above a misdemeanor, it is still a serious situation to contend with. That’s because a misdemeanor becomes much easier to get it set aside or expunged from one’s record. A felony is much more difficult to have it removed from their permanent record (DMV).
Having a felony on one’s permanent record can make it difficult to find employment, get loans to purchase a home, and much more. There are number of other things that change when a person is found guilty of any type of felony, including a Class 5 felony. That would include no longer being eligible to run for public office, not being allowed to vote, not being permitted to own or carry a firearm or concealed weapon, and will not be eligible to work in a particular field that requires state or federal permits or licenses.
When you begin to think about just how many jobs this entails, it is a staggering number of potential employment opportunities that can immediately be lost.
A convicted felon would not be eligible to open or operate a legal contracting company in some states, such as a home improvement contractor, because those individuals would be required to be licensed by the state.
Having a class 5 felony on your record can also make it extremely difficult to find adequate housing. Applying for housing at a major apartment complex will often require a background check. If a person has been convicted of a felony, regardless of its classification, it will show up on that background check and could prevent the individual from being able to secure housing at that particular complex.
In that kind of situation, the individual may be limited significantly on what housing is available to him or her. They may have to seek out housing through independent channels rather than through a major apartment complex that is run by a management firm.
How can you clear up your record when you have a class 5 felony on it?
This is where it makes a significant difference whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a class 5 felony. The vast majority of states throughout the United States will not allow anyone to have a felony conviction sealed or expunged. There may be certain conditions, especially if the offender is a juvenile, but successfully petitioning to have a felony conviction removed from public record is extremely difficult and rare.
It is quite a bit easier to have a misdemeanor sealed or expunged from somebody’s public record. To have a record expunged means it is no longer in the record, either for law enforcement or anyone else to see. Having a record sealed means it is no longer visible in the public record, but law enforcement agencies and officials would be able to have access to that record.
As you can see, it is extremely important to understand the difference between a class 5 felony and a misdemeanor, at least in most states. Not only is the difference significant when it comes to sentencing guidelines, but a felony conviction, as opposed to a misdemeanor, can follow a person around for the remainder of their life, making it incredibly difficult to find housing, viable employment, or even take part in civic duties, such as voting or holding public office.
If you or someone you know is facing a class 5 felony, it’s important that they get quality legal representation to try and get that knocked down to a misdemeanor, and, if it is possible, to have it dismissed altogether.