What’s My Potential Sentence? A Look at Crime Sentences For Misdemeanors & Felonies in Virginia

When charged with a criminal offense, individuals always want to know what punishment can be imposed by the court.  In Virginia, crimes are classified in five misdemeanor categories and seven felony categories.

Today we will discuss the maximum crime sentences for misdemeanor and felony offenses.

Maximum Misdemeanor Crime Sentences

Fairfax County Courthouse SignMisdemeanors range from Class 4 through Class 1, with Class 1 charges carrying the highest penalties.  There are also unclassified misdemeanors, such as a first offense possession of marijuana.  Most misdemeanor offenses in Virginia are Class 1 misdemeanors:

Class 1 misdemeanors carry a crime sentence range of up to 12 months in jail and/or up to a $2,500.00 fine.  Unclassified misdemeanors are also punished as if they were Class 1 misdemeanors, unless the General Assembly has fixed a special range of punishment, as in the case of first offense possession of marijuana.

Learn more about Misdemeanor Classes and Penalties in Virginia +

Crime Sentences: What it means when jail time is imposed

If you receive a jail sentence to actually serve for a misdemeanor, you will serve 50% of the actual time imposed. For example, if the sentence is 30 days in jail to serve, you will actually serve 15 days, minus any time you already served in jail for the charge. The reduction in time to serve is applicable in almost all cases; the only instance in which this reduction and good time credit does not apply is when a mandatory minimum sentence is required by law.  If a mandatory minimum applies to a misdemeanor conviction, no good time credit will be earned, and you will be required to serve 100% of the unsuspended sentence.

Maximum Felony Crime Sentences

Felonies range from Class 6 through Class 1, with some felonies remaining unclassified.  Unclassified felonies are punished as Class 6 felonies unless the General Assembly has fixed a special range of punishment.  Maximum crime sentences for felonies can vary greatly.

Learn more about Felony Classes and Penalties in Virginia +

Felony Crime Sentences: What it means when jail time is imposed

Fairfax Court House Sign in snowy winterLike misdemeanors, felony jail time is reduced by good behavior during incarceration. But unlike misdemeanors, the good behavior time allowed is only about 15% of the total sentence. As a result, most people serve 85% of their felony sentence.

The reduction in time to serve is applicable in almost all cases; it does not apply when a mandatory minimum sentence is required by law for a misdemeanor. The effect of mandatory minimum sentences and good time credit for felonies is not clearly addressed by Virginia law, but seems to allow good time credit even for mandatory minimum sentences  (Code §§ 53.1-202.2 & 53.1-202.3).  The General Assembly uses two phrases to denote the minimum punishment for a particular offense, and each phrase, while similar, has a very different impact on how much time will actually be served.

For example, if charged with burning or destroying a home (Code § 18.2-77), the General Assembly has outlined the crime punishment as follows: “imprisonment for life or for any period not less than five years.”  Though the plain meaning of this phrase suggests the convicted individual must serve five years in jail, that is not accurate.  The court must impose a jail sentence of no less than five years, but it may suspend some, all, or none of that time.  That means a conviction under this statute may still carry only a minimal amount of jail time as its crime sentence.

On the other hand, if charged with assault on a police officer (Code § 18.2-57(C)), the following crime sentence is required: “the sentence of such person shall include a mandatory minimum term of confinement of six months.”  Wherever the words “mandatory minimum” are found, the court must impose all of that time as active time, and it cannot suspend any part of it.  Furthermore, there is no good time credit to reduce the active jail time.  This means the convicted individual will serve all six months in jail.

Crime Sentences for Felony Offenses: The Collateral Consequences

Finally, felony convictions carry serious collateral consequences.  In addition to showing up on a background check for life, a felony conviction also causes the convicted person to lose civil rights.  If convicted of a felony, you can no longer vote, sit on a jury, hold public office, act as a notary public, or possess firearms.  Furthermore, Virginia prohibits licensure of individuals in certain professions if they have been convicted of certain crimes. Security clearances and jobs can be put in jeopardy. There is no way to remove or expunge a conviction in Virginia, short of a pardon by the Governor.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in Fairfax You Can Trust

Regardless of the classification, a conviction of any kind can have a substantial impact on your life.  This is why it is important to consult with a trusted Fairfax criminal defense lawyer at Greenspun Shapiro PC who can give you a better idea of what kind of crime sentence you are facing under the particular facts and circumstances of your case.  While no attorney can predict exactly what will happen if you are convicted of an offense, an attorney can work with the Commonwealth to minimize your punishment.  Furthermore, if you are already a convicted felon, it is possible to restore your rights, and an attorney can help guide you through this process.

You can schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys by calling 703-352-0100 or by emailing us using our contact form.

From our Fairfax law office we provide superior legal services to our clients throughout Virginia.