A misdemeanor is a criminal charge, and a conviction can affect your life forever.
If you were charged with a misdemeanor crime, you should take the charges seriously. You can protect your future by talking with an experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyer before pleading guilty or accepting a plea offered by the prosecutor.
What Is a Misdemeanor?
Crimes are divided into two broad categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, but a misdemeanor sentence may include fines and jail time. Typically, misdemeanor sentences are served in county jail rather than state prison.
In Virginia, misdemeanors are divided into four classes. Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious, followed by Class 2 misdemeanors, Class 3 misdemeanors, and Class 4 misdemeanors. In addition to these four classes of charges, there is also an unclassified—or Class U—misdemeanor that is used in rare cases. Virginia law may also establish specific penalties for some misdemeanor crimes.
Class 1 Misdemeanors
A Class 1 misdemeanor is the most serious and common classification of misdemeanor crimes in Virginia. Often the potential legal consequences are similar to less serious felonies. Crimes that are categorized as a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia include:
- Reckless driving. A person can be charged with reckless driving if he is driving 20 miles per hour over the maximum speed level or in excess of 80 miles per hour no matter what the posted speed limit is.
- DUI. If a person’s blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or greater, he can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is also a Class 1 misdemeanor offense and can involve being intoxicated on drugs.
- Petit larceny. This is the stealing of property, goods, and money and includes shoplifting. If the value of what is stolen is over $200, a person could be charged with a felony.
- Assault and battery. Assault is the intent to engage in a harmful or offensive contact even if the suspect had no criminal contact with the victim. Battery is actually causing physical, harmful contact.
- Domestic assault. Domestic violence involves committing an act against a family or household member that involves violence, force or threats, and causes the victim to suffer physical injury or fear of injury or harm.
Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine not exceeding $2,500, or both of these punishments. In addition, some offenses, such as DUI, could involve loss of driving privileges and other penalties.
Class 2 Misdemeanors
Class 2 misdemeanors are less serious than Class 1 crimes. Some of the crimes that fall within this classification are:
- Possession of Class IV drugs. Schedule IV drugs include Darvon, Valium, Xanax, and other tranquilizers.
- Aggressive driving. Aggressive driving includes things such as failing to observe lanes marked for traffic, following another vehicle too closely, failing to stop or yield right of way when entering certain highways, evasion of traffic control devices, passing when overtaking a vehicle, stopping on highways, and other traffic violations, if the driver is a hazard or does one of these things with the intent to harass, intimidate, injury, or obstruct someone else. Typically, aggressive driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor, but if someone acts with the intent to injure, it may be a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The possible sentences for Class 2 misdemeanors include up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Class 3 and 4 Misdemeanors
Class 3 and 4 misdemeanors are less serious offenses, and the penalties do not include jail time.
Class 3 misdemeanors include:
- Possession of Class V controlled substances. Class V substances include cough medicines with codeine.
- Property damage without the intent to steal. Property damage without the intent to steal is a Class 3 misdemeanor.
The potential sentence for a Class 3 misdemeanor conviction includes a fine of up to $500.
Class 4 misdemeanors include:
- Public intoxication. Prosecutors must prove that you were intoxicated and that you were in a place where the public can reasonably see you.
- Possession of a Class VI controlled substance. Class VI substances are the substances that are least likely to be abused.
The penalty for a Class 4 misdemeanor conviction includes a potential fine of up to $250.
Why You Need to Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
You do not want to try to represent yourself if you are charged with a misdemeanor offense.
In addition to paying significant fines and serving a jail sentence, you will have a criminal record for the rest of your life. A criminal record may prevent you from obtaining a job, impact your immigration status, prevent you from obtaining a scholarship, and hamper your ability to obtain a loan.
Even if you believe you are guilty, you could have defenses to the charges brought against you, which may include:
- Violation of your constitutional rights
- Improper police procedures
- Improper search and seizure or collection of evidence
- The government took too long to bring charges against you and the statute of limitations expired
An experienced criminal defense attorney may help you by:
- Investigating your case, including interviewing witnesses, obtaining documents, and hiring an investigator if necessary
- Explaining the charges against you, the possible sentence you face, and how the criminal defense system works
- Developing a defense strategy to fight the charges against you
- Negotiating a plea agreement for you, if that is in your best interests
- Representing you at court hearings
Let Our Fairfax Criminal Defense Law Firm Help You
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro PC understand how significantly a misdemeanor conviction may impact you and your family. We have a track record of success in aggressively defending our clients to obtain the best possible outcome for them—whether their case is a traffic violation, misdemeanor, or felony. Call our Fairfax law firm at (703) 352-0100 to schedule your free consultation to learn how we can help you.