If you have been charged with a felony in Delaware, you probably have a lot of questions. You wonder if your life will ever be the same. What will happen if you are convicted? Can you be fired from your job? If you are an immigrant, will the charge impact your status?
Worrying without having the facts will only cause you stress. Arming yourself with information can set you at ease as you await your trial. It is important to stay well-informed throughout the process so you remain calm and help yourself.
Being Charged With a Felony
Felonies are the most serious criminal offenses. They carry heavier penalties than misdemeanors. In Delaware, you may face incarceration and a stiff financial penalty if you are convicted of a felony, which is classified as an A, B, C, D, E, F or G offense. Class A felonies carry the harshest penalties. Examples of each type include:
- Class A: First-degree murder.
- Class B: Child rape.
- Class C: Child prostitution.
- Class D: Theft of property worth between $50,000 and $100,000.
- Class E: Extortion.
- Class F: Cruelty to animals.
- Class G: Tampering with physical evidence.
Every classification except for A is divided into violent and nonviolent crimes. The statute of limitations on most felonies in Delaware is five years from when the crime occurred, though the most serious crimes, such as murder, carry no limitations. Someone with prior felony convictions will receive a heavier sentence than someone without them.
What Are the Collateral Consequences?
Collateral consequences include the noncriminal penalties of being charged with a felony. These are separate from the penalties imposed by the court, and they apply to all aspects of your life. Being charged with a felony can impact your employment as well as your immigration status.
Our clients often come to us with questions about collateral consequences. Sometimes they play out in different ways, depending on the circumstances. We can help you navigate these difficult situations if you are charged with a criminal offense in Delaware.
How Does a Felony Impact Your Job?
Delaware employees work at will, which means an employer can fire an employee any time they want, and they don’t have to provide a reason. You can be fired for being charged with a felony. It may not seem fair, and it may make a harder time even more difficult.
If you are unemployed or looking for a new job after a recent firing, you may also discover that it is more difficult to get an interview when you have been charged with a felony. Most employers ask about your criminal history, and they can run background checks that flag your criminal record.
If you hold a professional license, you may lose it if you have been charged with a crime. Many have fiduciary responsibilities, such as in real estate or the law, and a criminal charge could cast doubt on your ability to fulfill a role based on trust.
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How Does a Felony Impact Your Parental Rights?
If you are involved in a custody case, being charged with a felony can hurt your chances of winning the case. You may lose visitation rights with your child, depending on the severity of the charge, and you may have a difficult time convincing a judge that you deserve custody of the child based on your decision-making.
People convicted of sex-related crimes often lose custodial or visitation rights with their children. Violent crimes also often result in termination of contact with children.
Sometimes a judge will consider the nature of the crime and offer more leniency. If you were charged with a nonviolent, first-time offense, you are more likely to retain visitation or custodial rights. The judge is supposed to act in the best interests of the child, and so you may continue to have a say in issues surrounding raising the child even if you don’t participate directly, such as input on religious upbringing.
What It Could Mean for Your Immigration Status
Convictions for certain felonies could trigger deportation for immigrants. The penalty depends on the severity of the crime you are charged with and what happens during your trial. Serious crimes that could lead to deportation include:
- Domestic violence.
- Sex crimes.
- Drug trafficking.
If you commit an aggravated felony, you may not be able to return to the United States after your deportation, either. A lawyer can help you determine your immigration status after being charged with a felony and advise you on your future choices.
What to Do After Being Charged With a Felony
Being charged with a felony can impact you in many ways before you even go to trial. Enlisting a lawyer to help you navigate this difficult time is the smartest thing you can do. They can advise you of your rights and ensure you receive the protections you are entitled to under the law. While you may feel sad and uncertain of what to do next, there are ways to fight the criminal and collateral damages from a felony charge.
An experienced attorney can work with you to learn the details of your case and argue against collateral damages. You deserve the chance to fight for what’s important to you, whether you want to stay in the country or maintain visitation rights with your children. Enlisting an attorney with experience in these areas will help you feel better about the criminal process, so you can channel your energy into a productive fight.