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Most felonies are nonviolent and many are bizarre

California residents may think of felonies as violent crimes like homicide, rape and arson, and they may be surprised to learn that an individual could be branded a felon for innocuous behavior such as making an unusual noise in a post office or handling a crate of foreign primates without first donning waterproof footwear. Even calling in sick just to get a day off is a felony in some situations.

The House of Representatives recently attempted to rein in the burgeoning number of federal laws, but the Congressional Research Service told the Overcriminalization Task Force that it did not have the resources or manpower to even compile a list of every felony on the books. This is a list that includes inadvertently wandering into a restricted area while out hiking.

This is a serious issue because the consequences of a felony conviction are severe and continue for years after an offender is released from custody. Convicted felons are prohibited from holding a number of jobs, lose their Second Amendment rights, and cannot vote in federal or state elections. Felons are also not permitted to adopt children and may even lose custody of their biological children. Many people who are branded felons committed no crime and chose to plead guilty after prosecutors told them about what is known as the trial penalty. Research into wrongful convictions suggests that as many as 230,000 innocent people may be behind bars.

The trial penalty is the term prosecutors use to describe the far more severe sentences that are handed down following a conviction in court. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise individuals who maintain their innocence to remember that juries only return a guilty verdict when guilt has been established beyond reasonable doubt. This is a very strict standard of proof, and reaching it requires compelling evidence.

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Law Offices of Catherine A. Schwartz
6877 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92506

Phone: 951-335-0510
Fax: 951-686-8195
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