When you are facing criminal charges in Kentucky, it’s important to understand how different charges can affect your future. The two primary types of criminal charges in Louisville, KY, are misdemeanors and felonies, with felony offenses being the more serious of the two.
However, some crimes may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony based on the facts and circumstances involved in the situation. These crimes are called “wobbler” offenses.
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Misdemeanors in Kentucky
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is less serious than a felony, but more serious than a violation. Generally speaking, misdemeanors are punishable by fines or jail time of up to one year or both. Misdemeanors can be either Class A or Class B, depending on the severity of the crime committed.
Class A Misdemeanor
In Kentucky, Class A misdemeanors are punishable by 90 days to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $500. Examples of Class A misdemeanors include possession of four or fewer marijuana plants.
Class B Misdemeanor
Class B misdemeanors carry punishments of up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $250. An example of a Class B misdemeanor is second-degree trespass (illegally entering protected property) in Kentucky. Other examples include shoplifting items valued at under $500.
Felonies in Kentucky
If you have been charged with a felony in Kentucky, it’s important for you to understand the potential consequences you’re facing.
Class A Felonies
Class A felonies are the most serious crimes that can be committed and carry the highest penalty. If convicted, individuals face 20 to 50 years or life in prison. Examples of class A felonies include first-degree rape, armed robbery with a firearm, kidnapping with a deadly weapon, and arson in the first degree.
Class B Felonies
Class B felonies are also serious crimes but carry lesser penalties than those associated with Class A felonies. If convicted, individuals face 10 to 20 years in prison. Examples include first-degree assault, first-degree robbery, and child sex trafficking.
Class C Felonies
A conviction for a Class C felony can lead to 5 to 10 years of imprisonment for offenses such as second-degree manslaughter, strangulation in the first degree, and theft by extortion (over $10,000).
Class D Felony Convictions in Kentucky
In Kentucky, Class D felonies are considered the least serious type of felony offense. However, they still carry significant penalties, including up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Examples of Class D felonies include bail jumping on felony charges and stalking in violation of a protection order.
Persistent Felony Offenders
Those with prior felony convictions may face harsher penalties than first-time offenders when convicted of another crime in Kentucky. The state considers individuals who have previously been convicted two or more times as “persistent felony offenders” and imposes a longer prison sentence than it would for someone without any prior convictions.
For example, someone convicted of a Class D offense who is also identified as a persistent offender could be sentenced to longer than one to five years for someone without any previous convictions.
What Is a Wobbler and How Does It Affect Your Sentencing?
A “wobbler” is an offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In other words, the prosecutor has the discretion to charge the offense as either one without consulting the court. Many criminal offenses in Kentucky are considered wobblers, including statutory rape, DUI, making criminal threats, burglary, forgery, and carrying a loaded firearm in public.
Wobblers give prosecutors more flexibility when deciding how to handle each individual case.
Prosecutors assess various factors when determining how to charge a wobbler offense, such as the severity of the crime, age of the defendant, prior criminal record, the likelihood of re-offending, and whether probation is applicable.
The strength of the prosecution’s case and the level of cooperation from the defendant also play a role in deciding how to classify a wobbler offense. Having an experienced Louisville criminal defense lawyer could make all the difference in how your charges are prosecuted.
Aggravating Factors vs. Mitigating Factors
An aggravating factor is any element of a crime that causes it to be charged as a felony, or that increases your sentence. Some examples include serious injury or death during the commission of the crime, evidence that drugs or alcohol consumption was involved, presence of deadly weapons, and type of victim (such as a child or police officer).
Conversely, mitigating factors are elements that can increase the chance of reducing a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. These could include having no prior record, committing a minor, non-violent crime, and cooperation. Lawyers will use mitigating factors as a way to get charges reduced or dismissed altogether.
Contact a Qualified Louisville Criminal Defense Attorney
The type of charge you face will depend heavily upon the facts surrounding your case, so it’s critical to speak with an experienced attorney if you’ve been accused of committing a crime in Kentucky.
An experienced Louisville criminal defense attorney can help explain the different classes of charges, provide legal advice, and advocate on your behalf during court proceedings. For help, contact Suhre & Associates, LLC, today to schedule a free consultation.