What is a Felony in Kentucky?

Felony charges are distinct in that they are more serious than misdemeanor charges. The vast majority of job and school applications will typically ask you about whether or not you’ve been convicted of a felony; therefore, it is important to understand what it is and what the penalties are.

The simple distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor is that misdemeanors are punishable by no more than one year in jail, whereas felonies are those crimes that can be punished by MORE than one year of incarceration.

The Kentucky legislature has outlined categories of felonies and the potential punishment for each of those levels. Specifically, Kentucky Revised Statutes, Section 532.060 lays out the following max time periods of incarceration for a felony charge in Kentucky:

  •   For a Class A felony, not less than twenty (20) years nor more than fifty (50) years, or life imprisonment;
  •   For a Class B felony, not less than ten (10) years nor more than twenty (20) years;
  •   For a Class C felony, not less than five (5) years nor more than ten (10) years; and
  •   For a Class D felony, not less than one (1) year nor more than five (5) years.

Outside of those classes, there are also capital offenses. Murder is a capital offense that is punishable by death or as little as 20 years in prison. However, in order to receive the death penalty, a person must either be convicted or found guilty of murder plus evidence of at least one of eight statutory aggravators.

Fines for Felonies

In addition to significant prison time, felonies can carry hefty fines upon conviction. Kentucky Revised Statutes, Section 534.030 lays out the specific fines for felonies which range anywhere from one thousand dollars ($1,000) to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

A person can also be fined two times the amount of the “gain” from the commission of the crime if the total exceeds $10,000. There is an exception to the Court imposing these fines if the person is deemed indigent pursuant to KRS Chapter 31.

Felony Case Process

A felony case usually begins when the accused is charged or arrested. A suspect might be arrested immediately at the scene of an offense or sometime after the crime was allegedly committed.

After the person is arrested, they will be brought before a judge. The charges will be formally read to them, and the issue of bond or release will be determined.

The charges may be brought before a grand jury. The accused is never a part of any grand jury proceeding. Instead, grand jurors meet and hear evidence presented by the prosecutor and decide if there is sufficient evidence to support an indictment against the accused. The level of proof needed at this stage is simply probable cause, unlike beyond a reasonable doubt which is needed at trial.  

Once charges are filed, there will be an arraignment or pretrial hearings where the accused will enter a plea (almost always not guilty at this stage). At the arraignment, it is likely that no evidence has been received or reviewed yet by the defendant or the defendant’s attorney. Therefore, no one should be entering a guilty plea without reviewing the evidence against them, particularly with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Having a skilled defense attorney on your side is critical to navigating the remaining process which includes case investigation, possible motion and evidentiary hearings, preparation for trial, and case negotiations. An attorney can help achieve the best possible outcome (and lowest possible sentence) for your case.

Lesser Included Offenses

Your case may even be one that needs to go to trial because the felony charge you are facing was improperly charged or inflated. Your attorney may be able to argue for a lesser included offense. This is a charge that contains most, but not all, of the same elements as the felony offense. 

One common example is homicide, which is the unlawful taking of another person’s life. Murder is the most severe charge with the harshest penalties; manslaughter is a lesser included offense of murder. To see if there are lesser included offenses to your felony charge, speak to an experienced defense lawyer to explore those options for a reduced sentence and better outcome.

Contact an Attorney for Assistance

If you are facing a felony charge, it is important to reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney for assistance. As discussed above, the consequences of a felony conviction can last a lifetime. Most criminal defense law firms offer a free consultation; it won’t hurt your pocket to reach out.