Texas residents likely think of serious crimes like murder and arson when felonies are mentioned, and they may be surprised to learn that dozens of acts that would barely raise an eyebrow also fall under this designation. Calling in sick to spend a day in front of the television is actually a felony in some situations, and making a scene in a post office is always a federal crime. This is important because the consequences of a felony conviction often continue for years after an offender is released from prison or jail.
Felons are not permitted to vote in state or federal elections and are barred from owning firearms. They will also be automatically rejected if they apply for certain jobs and could even lose custody of their children. This may seem fair for a murderer or rapist, but it could be considered a little excessive for an individual whose only crime was getting lost in the woods or forgetting to put on waterproof shoes before picking up a crate of foreign primates.
When the House of Representatives Overcriminalization Task Force asked the Congressional Research Service to compile a list of every federal crime on the books, the agency said that it did not have the manpower or resources needed to complete the task. This is one of the reasons that the U.S. incarcerates more of its citizens than any other developed nation.
This is worrying because research suggests that as many as 230,000 state and federal prisoners may have been wrongfully convicted, and many of these unfortunate individuals pleaded guilty to avoid the draconian sentences that are often handed down after a trial conviction. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may advocate fiercely on behalf of clients who maintain their innocence, and they could advise them to reject plea offers when the evidence against them does not seem strong enough to prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.
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