Felonies are serious crimes that may be punished by more than a year in jail and include everything from a second DUI to first degree murder. If you are charged with a felony your freedom is definitely at risk, and it is vitally important to have an experienced lawyer protecting your rights and fighting to get the best deal possible to avoid jail or at least limit the length of your stay in prison.
Felonies often begin with an arrest, but they can also begin with an indictment from a grand jury, which means a panel of citizens is presented with evidence by the district attorney’s office and decide whether or not to charge you with a crime. That grand jury must indict all cases that go to the Criminal Court, so if they decline to indict you the case is over. However, only the prosecution gets to present evidence to the grand jury, so the prosecutors usually get the grand jury to indict the overwhelming majority of cases presented to them.
During a felony case your lawyer will be able to do a lot more to research your case and get discovery from the prosecutor to examine all the evidence being brought against you at trial. There are often hearings regarding the admissibility of evidence prior to going to trial, so that everyone knows what’s going to be presented to the jury before the trial begins, which means there are no tricks or surprises like you may have seen in a movie or on television. If your case goes to a jury trial you can testify on your own behalf but you don’t have to, and your lawyer may not want you to testify as a matter of strategy to avoid the prosecutor being allowed to aggressively question you on the stand.
A felony case doesn’t end if you are convicted and sent to prison. Your case can be reviewed in a post-conviction proceeding that will determine whether or not any of your rights were violated in your trial and if the outcome may have been different if your lawyer had tried a different strategy. However, this process will only result in a new trial if the appellate court finds there is a substantial likelihood an error at trial changed the verdict. Basically, if you would have been found guilty regardless of the error then the conviction will stand.