Serious felonies normally involve violent behavior or the attempt of a violent crime, but there are other factors that can come in to play. Understanding your charges is one of the most important parts of mounting a successful criminal defense strategy.
Under California law, certain offenses automatically qualify as a serious felony. These include but are not limited to murder, rape, assault with intent to commit rape or robbery, kidnapping and holding someone hostage. Any criminal offense where life in prison or the death penalty is a possible sentence is also classified as a serious felony.
Crimes that involve the threat of violence are also normally classified as serious felonies, including witness intimidation or conspiracy to commit any of the above offenses. Some nonviolent crimes can also qualify as a serious felony, including various drug offenses.
Felonies in and of themselves are very serious charges and should be treated accordingly, but with serious felonies, the stakes are even higher, and defendants can find themselves facing consequences like life in prison or even the death penalty in the case of a conviction. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can take some of the guesswork and worry out of what can be a very intimidating criminal justice process.
When you are facing these types of charges, it can be helpful to have someone by your side who understands the system and can help you navigate through your options. Talking with an attorney about the details of your case and the charges you are up against can help you begin to understand what the next steps are and what to expect.
Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, "Definition of Serious Felony Offenses As specified in Penal Code (PC) Section 1192.7(c) and PC Section 1192.8" accessed Jan. 22, 2015