Most states classify their crimes in three levels: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are the lowest, most minor crimes, and felonies are the highest, most serious crimes. These crime levels are treated with different penalties.
Infractions are punished through citations and small fines. Misdemeanors are more serious crimes. At the lower end, they can be punished with fines only. As a misdemeanor’s severity increases, it is punished with heavier fines, and class 1 and 2 misdemeanor charges carry jail time. Misdemeanors look bad on a criminal record, and they can impede someone’s ability to secure a job.
Felonies are the most serious crimes in Virginia, and they have their own levels of severity. In Virginia, felony penalties vary based on the type of offense. Once convicted of a felony, people can lose some of their civil rights like voting, the right to possess a firearm, and the right to serve on a jury. Many felonies cannot be expunged from a criminal record if someone is convicted. This can negatively impactpeople for life in terms of finding employment, where they can live, etc. In Virginia, there are 6 classes of felony.
Class 6 Felonies
Depending on the severity of the case, a judge or jury can sentence people convicted of these crimes with a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500.00 OR 1-5 years in prison.
Examples of Class 6 Felonies:
- DUI-3rd or subsequent offense
- Animal Cruelty
- Child Abuse and Neglect
- Unlawful Wounding
Class 5 Felonies
Penalties become more severe at this level, and you can get 1- 10 years OR jail time up to 12 months and/or a fine up to $2,500.
Examples of Class 5 Felonies:
- Involuntary Manslaughter
Class 4 Felonies
From here on, the penalties continue to get worse for felonies. Class 4 to Class 1 felonies can have fines as high as $100,000. Prison time for a Class 4 felony is 2 to 10 years. The crimes in this class are more severe as well.
Examples of Class 4 Felonies:
- Discharge a Firearm near a school
- Maliciously Shooting at a Vehicle
- Arson of an Unoccupied Building
Class 3 Felonies
The minimum prison sentence for a Class 3 felony is 5 years, and the maximum is 20 and a fine up to $100,000. The crimes in this category are more severe and more dangerous.
Examples of Class 3 Felonies:
- Attempted poisoning
- Breaking and entering
Class 2 Felonies
Most of what we imagine as high-level crimes belong in this category. Sentencing for a Class 2 felony begins at 20 years, and it can go up to life in prison. Many of the crimes here involve endangering someone else with a weapon.
Examples of Class 2 Felonies:
- Armed burglary
- Armed bank robbery
- Kidnapping specifically to gain ransom money or for some other “immoral purpose”
Class 1 Felonies
In Virginia, very few crimes meet the criteria for a Class 1 felony. Virginia views these as the most egregious crimes a person can commit. There is no minimum sentence. Convicts are punished with a life in prison. Until very recently, Class 1 felons could be put to death, but Virginia’s criminal justice reforms have changed that.
Examples of Class 1 Felonies:
- Premeditated murder
- Sexual assault of a child under 15
Virginia has one more category of felony, and it is unique. It is called an unclassified, or “Class U” felony. These felonies don’t fall under the other classes of felonies. They carry their own range of sentences. Judges can sentence these felonies at their own discretion, meaning a convict could have harsh or mild penalties. If you are charged with a Class U felony, you need the services of a good lawyer. They may be able to help argue your sentence down if you are convicted.
Examples of Class U Felonies:
- Drug possession
- Theft of property valued above $1,000 (grand larceny)
- Sex offenses
If you have been charged with a felony, call us today at (703) 940-0001, or contact us online. We are here to help defend the rights and freedoms of Virginia’s citizens.