Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
A felony is a classification of crime that defines it as “serious” and that typically incurs a more severe punishment than that of a misdemeanor. Such crimes may result in one or more of the following: imprisonment, a fine, or the death penalty. Of course, the ultimate sentence passed heavily depends on the circumstances surrounding the crime, if there were any injuries or deaths as a result of the crime, and perhaps even the defendant’s behavior during the proceedings. These factors may encourage the judge to lessen or increase the seriousness of the sentence.
Felonies themselves are classified into subcategories that may further indicate the level of severity of the crime.
- Class “E” felonies are the least serious and carry penalties of up to three (3) years in prison.
- Class “D” through “B” felonies are more serious and carry maximum prison sentences of six (6) years to twenty-five (25) years.
- Class “A” felonies are the most serious and can result in a life sentence without parole. Those convicted may also be eligible for the death penalty.
Examples of crimes that may be considered felonies include the following: homicide, kidnapping, rape, and grand larceny.
Felony records are just part of the fabric that may compose a person’s criminal record. A person who has been convicted of a felony may be labeled a felon for the rest of their life, even after the full sentence has been served. This label may also be branded regardless of whether parole, probation or early release was granted. The status of “convicted felon” may require a successful legal appeal or executive clemency to dislodge.
Felony records are part of criminal records, and may therefore be considered to be public records: nearly all court convictions are part of the public record and can be searched and viewed by anyone — and the majority of felony records are now digitized and available via the web. However, each jurisdiction or state has their own public records laws, so how much information about a person or case you can view depends on where the felon committed the crime.
Relatively easy public access to felony records and criminal records is a fairly recent development, as the internet and online background check services have made it easier to obtain information. Until recently, if you wanted to find out if someone had a criminal record or was convicted of a felony, you likely would have had to visit the courthouses and clerks’ offices in every county, and every state. Online databases with information on convicted individuals are kept by the FBI and record offices, but access to those databases may be restricted to necessary government personnel, such as prosecutors and police, and perhaps some employers.
Though you may be able to access them now, felony records, though they are public records, may not provide all the information you are seeking, as this depends on the state in which the felon was convicted.
However, the following is a sample of just some of the information you may be able to obtain by searching for a felon’s records, if you already know some basic informations, such as their full name (an exception to this availability, for example, might be with convictions that a judge has sealed, or records that have been expunged):
- Identifying data such as age and state of residence
- Offense committed and the date it occurred on
- Court location, name, and jurisdiction
- Plea entered in court and the disposition
However, some data may be missing, so as to prevent or discourage the likelihood of identity theft, such as a person’s social security number and their birthday.
Information obtained through felony and criminal records are just pieces of the puzzle that may help you piece together an individual’s past and help you make decisions about how you feel comfortable interacting with said individual.
Felony records, and, in a sense, criminal records at large, may be informative whether you’re searching your own or that of another. But simply by being aware of the existence of such records may serve to better explain why and what may or may not be happening as you are considered for future opportunities in your everyday life. In most states, consequences of being convicted of a felony, even after the sentence was served or a felon was granted parole or an early release, include the following:
- Difficulty finding a job, as employers who utilize a FCRA-authorized employment screening search may be able to find your criminal record. In many contexts, it may be legitimate and/or acceptable to discriminate against felons when considering such individuals as possible hiring prospects and potential employees.
- Exclusion from obtaining certain licenses and permits, such as a visa or a gun permit. This may also include professional licenses required to legally operate or manage certain businesses (making some opportunities inaccessible to felons).
- Difficulty finding a home, as landlords utilizing a FCRA-authorized screening may also be reluctant to rent a home to felons.
- Ineligibility to serve on a jury.
- Ineligibility for government assistance or welfare.
As a private citizen, you may want to perform a person search to see if someone you know may have been convicted of a felony for a variety of permitted reasons. You may be dating online and would like to check up on a prospective date for your own safety. Perhaps a loved one’s new acquaintance is a known convict and you want to find out more about this person. Perhaps you have a new neighbor about you’ve been hearing rumors about. There’s no shortage of reasons why checking up on the existence and the details about a person’s felony record can help you. But please refer to our Do’s and Don’ts page for information on when our site and service may not be used and when it can and how such a permissible people search and review of felony records can benefit you in your everyday life.
Additionally, some records can sometimes be mistakenly matched to individuals with the same or similar names. Such a mistake may negatively impact the life of an innocent person, so you may want to check if this is happening to you, and similarly bear in mind that the search subject you’re seeking may be an unrelated individual with a similar name or a victim of clerical error.
Depending on the jurisdiction, a convicted felon may be able to remove a felony from their record, or prevent another party from viewing court files and documentation by asking a judge to seal or expunge their conviction, where such efforts are available as an option.
Some states, such as New York do not currently permit the expungement of one’s wider criminal record or the felony record of a convicted felon. It’s best to check the laws of the state in whch the crime was committed from time to time for confirmation.
While expungement may not be possible, sealing a record may be more readily accomplished. It does not mean that the record is erased, but that it is considered off-limits and invisible to most members of the public. This may have several consequences: records of mugshots, palm prints, and fingerprints may be eliminated and the crime and conviction may be removed from the convicted felon’s overall criminal record that was available to the wider public. However, the sealed record may still be available to certain people: the felon in question, an agency that considers granting approvals of a gun license, certain employers (if, for example, the ex-convict applies for work as security or a member of law enforcement or a peace officer or if the job requires them to carry a gun), the military (if they decide to enlist), and prosecutors, parole officers, or other varieties of law enforcement agent. Be advised, however, that there may be a waiting period and other hurdles before being able to successfully seal a felony record, depending on the jurisdiction. Check your state’s laws for more information about the felony record sealing process.
If you are interested in sealing the record of a case in which you were convicted, you may try and file a motion with the court where the charge was filed and prosecuted. When you fill out the petition to have the case sealed, you may then have to provide case and arrest details and proof of completion of any mandatory rehabilitation program. At some point thereafter, you can typically expect to be notified about the status of your petition.