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The Felony, Violent Felony, Misdemeanor and Petty Offenses

In order to understand criminal law in New York and how to properly defend a criminal matter it is necessary that the accused and the criminal defense lawyer both have a very good understanding of the different types of criminal offenses in New York. This will help the criminal defense lawyer explain the levels of offenses and the consequences of the offenses.

All criminal offenses in New York begin with the charges or the Accusatory Instrument. In New York the Penal Law (criminal laws) and other laws differentiate criminal offenses according to the level of punishment. In New York criminal defense the three areas of offenses are Felonies, Misdemeanors and Petty Offenses.

The Felony--
The Felony is the most serious offense in New York State. It includes crimes from murder to grand larceny. The levels of felonies in New York range from A-1 felonies, the most serious, to Class "E" felonies. The punishment for a plea or conviction to a felony can range from fines, probation or a state prison sentence. A state prison sentence is served in a New York state facility "upstate" for a term of over one year.

The Violent Felony--
The violent felony is defined by the penal law section 70.20(1). These are specific types of crimes but do not necessarily have to involve a violent act. With respect to sentencing a violent felony offense will carry with it a determinate sentence (6 years) as opposed to an indeterminate sentence (2 to 6 years).

The misdemeanors in New York are divided into class "A" misdemeanors and class "B" misdemeanors. Class "A" misdemeanors are the more serious crimes (ie. criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, assault in the third degree) and carry with it a potential of up to one year in the local jail such as the county jail.

Unclassified Felony or Unclassified Misdemeanor--
If a crime is not identified by the New York state Penal Law then the offense usually will be deemed "Unclassified". For example the New York state DWI laws are under the Vehicle and Traffic law (VTL) and therefore are unclassified. An unclassified Felony is treated as a class "E" felony while a unclassified Misdemeanor is treated as a class "A" misdemeanor for sentencing purposes.

Petty Offenses--
A petty offense is the least serious offenses in New York state and include violations and traffic offenses. A conviction for a petty offense is not considered a criminal conviction. Punishment can include incarceration (15 days) in the local jail but can also include fines, restitution, state surcharges and/or community service. For example, disorderly conduct is a penal law petty offense as is harassment in the second degree.

When charged with a petty offense alone fingerprints and photographs will not be taken by the police department or state police and the accused is not entitled to a jury trial. Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) (VTL 1192.1) is another example of a petty offense or a violation.

If the defendant is convicted of a petty offense the conviction is normally sealed. If the original charge was more serious and the case was reduced to a petty offense the matter will normally be sealed and any fingerprints or photographs will be destroyed.

The criminal defense and the criminal defense attorney--
In New York it is important to understand the nature of the charge and any potential sentence as a result of a criminal conviction. The top criminal defense lawyers will review the charge with an accused to understand the nature and the type of criminal matter. As it can be seen from the criminal law blog, a Felony is very different from a Petty Offense.

All offenses have serious consequences for the accused or the convicted. Consequences include employment consequences or driving license suspensions. The best criminal defenses lawyers will explain the offense and any of these collateral consequences.