If you are charged with a crime in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you will either be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony crime. Misdemeanors are less serious offenses, and the sentence will not be as severe, with less or no jail time and lower fines. Felony crimes are much more serious crimes with harsher sentences that can include long prison terms and heavy fines. Both a misdemeanor and felony conviction will also result in you having a permanent criminal record.
When charged with a felony, you need to understand how felonies are classified and sentenced in Virginia, so that you know the possible sentences you could face. You should also contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you build your defense. Even if you believe that you are guilty of the crime you are charged with committing, you could have many procedural, constitutional, and other defenses that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense—maybe even a misdemeanor.
How Are Felonies Classified in Virginia?
In Virginia, there are six classes of felonies ranging from Class 1, which is the most serious, to Class 6, the least serious. Each classification has its own range of sentences. Some crimes can fall under more than one class. Here are the classifications of felonies that you could be convicted of:
- Class 1. A conviction of a Class 1 crime comes with the harshest penalties. Examples of crimes that are classified as Class 1 crimes are capital murder and first-degree murder. If you are over 18 years old and not mentally incompetent, you could be convicted of capital murder and be sentenced to death. If you are charged with first-degree murder or another Class 1 offense, you could be sentenced to life in prison and fined up to $100,000.
- Class 2. A Class 2 felony often involves intentional crimes, such as arson, kidnapping, aggravated malicious wounding, which is causing permanent and physical impairment to another person, murder in some situations, and burglary with a deadly weapon. The sentence can range from a minimum of 20 years in prison to a life sentence and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Class 3. You could be convicted of a Class 3 felony for shooting or stabbing a person, attempting to poison someone, or certain drug crimes. Another common example of a Class 3 felony is malicious wounding—causing injury to a person with the intent of killing, disfiguring, or disabling him. A conviction can result in a prison sentence of 5 to 20 years and a fine not exceeding $100,000.
- Class 4. Embezzlement, arson of an unoccupied building, prostitution, kidnapping, and manslaughter can result in a Class 4 felony conviction. The penalties range from 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Class 5. Crimes that fall within this classification include involuntary manslaughter, extortion, and battery. These are often considered “wobbler” crimes that could be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the crime. A felony conviction could result in a prison sentence of 1 to 10 years and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Class 6. Class 6 felonies are the least serious felonies and are also considered “wobblers” that might result in a misdemeanor conviction. Examples of these crimes include animal cruelty, repeat larcenies, reckless endangerment, and violation of a court order. A sentence for a felony conviction could include one to five years in prison and a fine of $2,500.
Why You Need an Attorney If You Face Felony Charges
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is a must if you are being charged with a felony. With the help of an attorney, you may be able to get the charges dismissed, reduced to a lower classification of felony, or reduced to a misdemeanor. This is important not only for your sentence if you are convicted, but also for the rest of your life. A felony conviction can make it very difficult to be hired for certain jobs, to obtain a professional license, and to avoid other consequences that can make your life more difficult.
The criminal defense team at Greenspun Shapiro PC have over 80 years of combined experience handling many criminal cases involving a wide range of criminal charges. We understand the serious ramifications of any criminal conviction on our clients’ lives and work hard to thoroughly investigate the cases we handle to build the strongest possible defense. If you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime or are worried that you may face charges, start an online chat or call our Fairfax law office to schedule your free consultation.