What is a felony?
A felony is a more serious offense that carries a possible sentence of imprisonment for a year or more upon conviction. The defendant is not called upon to plead guilty or not guilty at his/her first court appearance. Instead, a date is set to determine whether or not there exists probable cause to believe the defendant committed the offense. The State either presents evidence of probable cause to a grand jury made up of sixteen citizens, or to the judge in a preliminary hearing. If there is a finding of probable cause, the case is set for arraignment, at which time the defendant is formally charged with a criminal offense and is called upon to plead guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date is set. It is always possible, however, that the case may be resolved by way of a negotiated plea of guilty prior to the trial.
Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. It is defined under federal law as a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.* However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the local criminal courthouse and try to search the records.