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Felon - An Abused Word

Written By: Dan Stanley  |  Posted: Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

                Those who are labeled as felons in our day and age seem to be increasing.  I have lost track of the reasons so many people are now so classified.   What I do know is it has become excessive in my opinion.  It seems a person can be charged as a felon and even become one in a surprising way.
                What bothers me is who is labeled as a felon.  Today if you were involved in a drug transaction you might be a felon.  Let spousal abuse occur just once and someone may soon be charged as a felon.  This newspaper ran a lead story in last past month's edition of that happening to a sheriff in California.  Let an eighteen year old and sixteen year old commit fornication consensually and the eighteen year old may very well be felon.  The list becomes increasingly long.  Just this past week I was in the court house at a hearing regarding a person who requested support.  In the process I met with a man whom I have known for many years.  His son has been charged with a second felony because he assisted a spouse upon request over restraining orders.  Even when assuming he was wrong to do so, to charge that person with another felony because he disregarded a restraining order lacks credulity.  Someone recently who said most  people break a law on the average everyday that, if prosecuted, would make them a felon.
                I am further disturbed in the loose use of this word in our court system having known many felons.  It has been my lot to have countless felons work for me over the years and for them to be in my home.  When they come into my life (one presently works for me), I want to know if they are a felon due to drugs, sex or stealing.  They are up front and that enables me to know how to best handle him or her.  It also is why I know, first hand, how their lives have been redirected, often into a downhill spiral due to be labeled a felon.
                The result of all this caused me to ask an attorney what the word felon meant.  He didn't know, but looked it up.  So did I.  A felon has various definitions.  William Blackstone, the famous man of law from past centuries, "refutes the misconception that felony simply means an offense punishable by death by demonstrating that not every felony is capital, and not every capital offense is a felony." However, he concedes that "the idea of felony is indeed so generally connected with that of capital punishment, that we find it hard to separate them; and to this usage the interpretations of the law do now conform." (Wikipedia)
                My research found that a felony or felon was "an evil person."  He or she was malignant, fierce and malicious.  Another source pointed out that to be a felon was to commit a serious crime.  This is why felons are associated with murder, rape, robbery, arson, treason, kidnapping and such crimes.  Do you get the point?  A felony is a serious crime.  A husband and wife having a domestic squabble that leaves no permanent damage nor threat that is serious has not committed a serious crime.  Remember even Blackstone said we cannot separate the word felon from a capital crime (punishable by death).  The young couple in consensual fornication in general are not committing a serious crime in the sense of being a felon.  The person smoking some dope or even selling some to his friend is not committing a serious crime.  Will any of these lead to serious crimes? Maybe, but the point is the label.  They ought not to be labeled as felons.
                The result of this abuse of the word felon is destroyed lives.  It marks a person unjustifiably for life, limits their ability to provide a living, leaves suspicion in the minds of those who are aware of this, and often leads a person to futility and more crime. 
                Who is responsible for this morphing of the word felon to include many who are really not felons?  Is it the legislators or the prosecutors or the judges?  I don't know.  What I do know is the word felon is abused and lives are ruined because someone labels and charges them as felons when they are not felons in the truest sense of the word.  I know also it is one more sign that our present day court system continues a downhill slide.   More and more the courts are involved in matters better left to families and communities.  More and more people who have done wrong (or have not) are threatened with multiple lists of charges.  The result is they are scared and plead guilty to lessen the "charges."   This has become an epidemic and an evil.  Someone is responsible.  Whoever it is needs to stop.  Righteousness is a wonderful thing.  Justice is necessary.  But the abuse of this word and excessive charges and verdicts of everyday people is oppressive, resulting not only in destroyed lives but an unhealthy fear of the powers that be.

                Dan Stanley is an owner and contributing editor of The US Journal.  Email:

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