Policeman writing a ticket

What Are Virginia’s Misdemeanor Classes?

Across the U.S., there is an almost universal system for classifying crimes. At the bottom, there are infractions. These are typically penalized through fines, and they rarely have incarceration attached. The next step up is misdemeanors. The more severe a misdemeanor is, the stronger the penalties, including jail time and hefty fines. The highest level of crime is a felony. At its most extreme, a felony can put someone in prison for life.

In Virginia, infractions apply mostly to traffic offenses. Anything beyond that is a misdemeanor. They are permanent convictions. They can appear on background checks, affecting your employment. They are grouped in “Classes,” with the least severe being a Class 4, and the most egregious being a Class 1. In a separate category, you will also find “Class U” misdemeanors, or “unclassified.” For complicated legal reasons, these crimes do not fit neatly into easily defined classifications.

Here is a list of misdemeanor classes in Virginia along with their penalties and examples.

Class 4 Misdemeanors

These crimes are minor. They do not carry jail time. The fines, however, can hurt your wallet. You could be fined up to $250 for this crime.

Examples include:

  • Public drunkenness
  • Minor trespassing (not burglary)
  • Driving with an open alcohol container

Class 3 Misdemeanors

Many sources reference Class 3 and 4 crimes together, seeing them as equal in severity. This is a misleading assumption. Although Class 3 crimes also do not carry jail time, the fines spike considerably. Convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor, you could be forced to spend up to $500 in fines.

Examples include:

  • Driving while uninsured
  • Notary misconduct (fraud)
  • Violating a court-ordered child custody or visitation decision (This could apply to a parent who misses their visits or a parent who blocks them.)

Class 2 Misdemeanors

From here, the severity of charges and penalties rises severely. Jail time is introduced, and you could serve up to six months for a Class 2. Fines double again, as you could be ordered to pay up to $1,000 in fines. You could be sentenced to jail, charged a fine, or both.

Examples include:

  • Driving without a license
  • Using a false identification
  • A second offense of violating child custody or visitation

Class 1 Misdemeanors

These are the most severe misdemeanors in the state. Depending on the severity of the offense, the crime could be sentenced or charged as a felony. For example, if a battery charge left someone severely beaten, injured, or killed, it would likely bypass misdemeanor status and go directly to being a felony charge. Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail, fines up to $2,500, or both.

Examples include:

  • Disorderly conduct
  • Assault and battery

Class U Misdemeanors

Some offenses are not categorized under one of the classes and are sentenced individually. Some minor drug possession charges, for example, can result in 30 days in jail.

Seek a Good Defense

Never assume that what you are being accused of is too “minor” to fight. The right to a defense is embedded in the Constitution. You are innocent until proven guilty, and you should exercise your rights. Even Class 3 and 4 misdemeanors can have a lasting impact which you could avoid with the right attorney.

For a quality defense against misdemeanor charges, reach out to our office today. We may be able to represent you in court. Our number is (703) 940-0001, and you can contact us online.