Classes of Punishment in Virginia

What is a Criminal Offense? (VA code ann.§18.2-8)

A criminal offense is either a felony or a misdemeanor. Felonies are classified into six classes while misdemeanors are classified into four classes. Class 1 is correlated with the most severe punishment. 

 

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

 

Misdemeanors are less serious compared to felonies. Therefore, the penalty for committing a misdemeanor is lower compared to committing a felony. While the maximum punishment for committing a misdemeanor is imprisonment for no more than a year and/or a fine of no more than $2500, the maximum punishment for committing a felony is death or life imprisonment. 

 

However, being convicted of committing a misdemeanor is still serious and will become part of your criminal record.

What are the Classes of a Felony? (VA code ann.§18.2-9, §18.2-10, §19.2-295.2, §18.2-370.2, §18.2-15, §18.2-17)

 

Felonies are classified into six classes. 

 

Class six felonies result in imprisonment for no less than one year and up to five years. However, with the discretion of the jury or court, class six felonies can also result in imprisonment of no more than a year and/or a fine of no more than $2500. An example of a class six felony would be repeated identity theft.  

 

Class five felonies result in imprisonment for no less than one year and up to ten years. However, with the discretion of the jury or court, class five can also result in imprisonment of no more than a year and/or a fine of no more than $2500. An example of a class five felony would be perjury.

 

Class four felonies result in imprisonment for no less than two years and up to 10 years and a fine of no more than $100,000. An example of a class four felony would be embezzlement of public funds or firing a firearm near a school.

 

Class three felonies result in imprisonment for no less than five years and up to twenty years and a fine of not more than $100,000. An example of a class three felony would be unarmed burglary or certain forms of sex trafficking. 

 

Class two felonies result in imprisonment for no less than 20 years and up to life imprisonment and a fine of not more than $100,000. An example of a class two felony would be armed burglary. 

 

Class one felonies result in life imprisonment or death if the person is above the age of 18 and is not determined to have an intellectual disability and a fine of no more than $100,000. If the person is under 18 or is determined to have an intellectual disability, the punishment is life imprisonment and a fine of no more than $100,000. Class one felonies cannot be punished by death unless it is authorized by law. An example of a class one felony is arson. 

 

In class two, three and four felonies and class one felonies with the punishment of life imprisonment, the court will impose either imprisonment and a fine or only imprisonment. However, if the person has an intellectual disability, the court will only impose a fine.

 

If imprisonment is the penalty for any felony offense, the court may impose an additional term of confinement of at least six months but not more than three years if you break the terms of post-release supervision established by the court. This additional term of confinement is suspended upon successfully completing post-release supervision. The duration of post-release supervision is at least six months but not more than three years. 

 

Imprisonment for a felony conviction will be in a state correctional facility except in class five and six felonies if the jury or court fixes the punishment in a jail. 

 

Further, if a felony offense results in prohibiting proximity to children, the sentencing court can 

prohibit the person from loitering within 100 feet of any primary, secondary or high school, any place that hosts a child day program and any playground and athletic facility. The person is also prohibited from having contact with children who are not in his or her custody. This is in addition to any penalty received by the class of the misdemeanor.

 

What are the Classes of a Misdemeanor? (VA code ann.§18.2-11, §18.2-370.2, §18.2-15)

 

Misdemeanors are classified into four classes

 

Class four misdemeanors result in a fine of no more than $250. An example of a class four misdemeanor is public intoxication. 

 

Class three misdemeanors result in a fine of no more than $500. An example of a class three misdemeanor is leaving a child unattended in a vehicle or theft worth less than $50.

 

Class two misdemeanors result in imprisonment of no more than six months and/or a fine of no more than $1000. An example of a class two misdemeanor is graffiti or theft worth more than $50 but less than $500.

 

Class one misdemeanors result in imprisonment of no more than one year and/or a fine of no more than $2500. An example of a class one misdemeanor is a DUI with no bodily injury.

 

Further, if a misdemeanor offense results in prohibiting proximity to children, the sentencing court can prohibit the person from loitering within 100 feet of any primary, secondary or high school and any place that hosts a child day program. This is in addition to any penalty received by the class of the misdemeanor. 

 

Imprisonment for a misdemeanor will be in a jail.

Is a Traffic Infraction a Criminal Offense? (VA code ann.§18.2-8, §46.2-100, §46.2-113, §46.2-341.20)

A traffic infraction is not a criminal offense. Unless the traffic infraction is committed with an additional crime, the penalty is a fine of not more than $250. If the court finds that it was a serious traffic violation, which includes reckless driving, driving at a speed 15 or more miles per hour above the speed limit, improper or erratic traffic lane change, etc., and the vehicle is 26,001 pounds or more, the penalty is a fine of not more than $500. 

 

However, if you are convicted of two serious traffic violations within three years, there is a 60-day disqualification period. If you are convicted of three serious traffic violations within three years, there is a 120-day disqualification period.

How Can an Attorney Help?

An attorney is especially important when determining the class of the misdemeanor or felony. This can especially be seen in class five and six felonies where there is a possibility of receiving the punishment of a class one misdemeanor. The maximum time of imprisonment for a class one misdemeanor is one year while the maximum time of imprisonment for a class six felony is five years and ten years for a class five felony. Although the mandatory minimum punishment needs to be carried out for the full term, the difference between the minimum punishment and the maximum is vast. An attorney would help you to navigate the law to ensure that justice is delivered for the crime committed.

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