- In criminal law, the term felony refers to those crimes that the government considers the more serious offenses that can be committed. They can be either violent or non-violent. A person charged with a felony in the United States typically risks punishment of one year in prison all the way up to the death penalty depending on the charges.
Because knowing that an offense is a felony clues jurors in that conviction may result in a prison sentence, some judges and prosecutors will go to great lengths to prevent defense attorneys and defendants from even mentioning in front of the jury that the accused is charged with one or more felonies. They fear that if jurors feel a prison sentence is unduly harsh for the offense committed, they may decide to conscientiously acquit the accused even though they believe that the law has technically been broken.
Contrast this with a misdemeanor.
Finder of Fact, Fact Finder
- A person or group of people responsible for deciding the factual issues and thereby determining what actually happened in a legal case. In trial by jury, the jury is responsible for finding the facts in the case before them. In a bench trial, the judge serves as the finder of fact.
Contrast this with finder of law.
Finder of Law
- The finder of law in a case is the party responsible for resolving questions of law that are in dispute in court.
It is common for the government to explain trial by jury by labeling the jury the finder of fact and the judge the finder of law. In doing so, it is common that it will be outright stated or strongly implied that the jury has no role in judging the law and how it is applied in the case at hand.
This is simply not true. Such a description is, however, an effective tactic for the government to effectively usurp power from jurors who, if they choose to do so, are perfectly within their rights and powers to deliver a verdict based on their judgment of the law as well as the facts in a case before them.
Contrast this with finder of fact.
- A member of a jury who presides over and represents the rest of the jury in matters such as asking questions on their behalf, delivering the verdict, and so on.