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Why does a minor crime suddenly result in a felony charge?

You might recognize that you made a bad decision prior to your arrest. Maybe you agreed to hold something for your friends and didn’t realize that there were drugs inside. Perhaps you had too much to drink and let someone at the bar goad you into an argument.

You know that you might have committed a minor offense, but you weren’t expecting the prosecuting attorney to come back with felony criminal charges. If you find yourself accused of a felony offense over what you believed was a minor or ultimately harmless legal infraction, you may feel panicked about the prospect of a conviction.

Understanding why a prosecutor would charge you with such a serious crime can help you decide what steps to take next.

More severe charges make it easier to avoid going to trial

Both prosecutors and the law enforcement departments get held accountable through arrest and conviction rates. They have a vested interest in ensuring that anyone they arrest or charge eventually gets found guilty.

Taking someone’s case through a trial is expensive. It requires a lot of work by the prosecutor and many others. Avoiding a trial by making someone feel like they have to accept a plea bargain can speed up the resolution rate for offenses and improve a prosecutor’s conviction rate.

By turning one offense into a felony or multiple misdemeanors, a prosecutor can make a scenario so dangerous for the defendant that accepting a plea bargain seems like the safer option. The result is that only a small number of defendants actually go on to trial, in part because they would face trial for the more severe offenses that might carry years of incarceration.

More serious offenses also require evidence to back them up

In order to convict you of a felony offense, a prosecutor will have to submit evidence to the courts that convinces the jury beyond a reasonable doubt of your guilt. They will need to be able to connect you to the criminal act and also make a compelling argument regarding intent in many cases.

Charging people with more serious crimes to get them to plead guilty is a double-edged sword. Prosecutors will have to work that much harder to meet the burden of proof necessary for a conviction. With the right defense strategy, those facing aggressive charges may be able to fight back and protect themselves.