Have you received a letter in the mail informing you that you or somebody you live with is 'to face felony charges?' If so, these can be the scariest words that you ever read - learn what you need to know.
There is nothing quite as scary as the first time you read those words and the reality of the situation sinks in. Felonies are serious business - they can affect your credit, your ability to find a job, your relationships and more.
If you have been charged with a felony, the first thing you need to do is remain calm - being charged with a felony is not the same as being convicted of a felony. Keep in mind that you will get the opportunity to tell your side of the story in court.
If the prosecutor decides to file charges against you they are well aware from day one that you probably won't be convicted of the same crime that you are originally charged. Prosecutors don't have enough time for the trial process (and it is very costly to taxpayers), so most cases are settled with a plea bargain.
Prosecutors need to give up some ground to reach a plea bargain, so they tend to overcharge, or initially charge you with either more crimes or more serious crimes than you will eventually plead to (or both). This is another reason to stay calm when you first receive a notice that you will face felony charges.
Find a good attorney
You need to find a good attorney in your state to represent you - a good attorney does cost a little money, but in the long run it is money well spent. Over the course of a decade a felony will cost you tens of thousands of dollars in foregone wages - felons, on average, simply don't make us much money as average Americans.
The best way to find a good attorney is to ask around and find somebody who specializes in the type of crime you have been charged with. Some people even call other attorneys and ask for recommendations - nobody knows an attorneys specialities better than their peers. If you have been charged with a felony DUI, you should find an attorney who specializes in DUI defense. If you have been charged with a white collar crime, find an attorney who has a lot of experience with embezzlement and check fraud.
If the worst happens and you are convicted of a felony, make sure to talk with your attorney at the time you are convicted about expungement possibilities. Some crimes can be expunged while others can't - you should make this a priority, even if it means a harsher jail or prison sentence upfront. If your crime is expungable then you will some day have a clear record - again, this improves your employment situation, credit score and more.
Remember, one prerequisite to expungement is not reoffending. If you are charged with any crime while on probation or after completing probation (but before expungement), you are risking your ability to expunge your record (note that minor traffic violations won't affect this). Keep your nose clean and try to find gainful employment - this will help pass the time and make everybody's life easier (you, the judge, your probation officer, your family, etc.).