Explanation of Virginia Laws and Penalties for Felony, Misdemeanor, and Criminal Traffic Offenses

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This article is written by criminal defense attorney Marina Medvin, who is located in Alexandria, Virginia, and Fairfax, Virginia. She represents individuals charged with the crimes described below in Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Vienna, Manassas, and Prince Prince William. Please call (703)870-6868 for a consultation request.

MISDEMEANOR

What is a misdemeanor? A misdemeanor offense is a criminal offense. Virginia has four categories of misdemeanor crimes – ranging from Class 1, the most serious, to Class 4, the least serious. Misdemeanor jail sentences are served in the county or city jail, not a state correctional facility.

Class 1 misdemeanors are punished by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Examples of Virginia crimes include Reckless Driving, DUI, and Assault & Battery charges.

Class 2 misdemeanors are punished by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Examples of Virginia crimes include various types of fraudulent advertising and possession of a Schedule IV drug / narcotic.

Class 3 misdemeanors are punished by a fine of up to $500. Examples of Virginia crimes include possession of a Schedule V drug / narcotic and various types of property destruction.

Class 4 misdemeanors are punished by a fine up to $250. Examples of Virginia crimes include possession of a Schedule VI drug / narcotic and drunk in public offenses.

All misdemeanor offenses are criminal in nature and will be added to, and remain as part of, your criminal record.

FELONY

What is a felony charge? Felony offenses are the most serious crimes under the Virginia system. These offenses may be punished by death penalty or life imprisonment. Sentences are served in a state correctional facility instead of a Virginia county jail.

Class 1 felonies are the most serious and heinous. Death is possible if the person is 18 years of age or older at the time of the offense and is not mentally retarded. Imprisonment for life with a fine up to $100,000 is also possible. The only example of a class 1 felony crimes in Virginia is premeditated murder under special circumstances.

Class 2 felonies are punishable by up to life in prison, and have a minimum prison sentence of 20 years, with a fine of up to $100,000. Examples of class 2 felony crimes in Virginia include murder and burglary with a deadly weapon.

Class 3 felonies are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and have a minimum prison sentence of 5 years, with a fine of up to $100,000. Examples of class 3 felony crimes in Virginia include shooting or stabbing someone, or attempting to poison someone.

Class 4 felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and have a minimum prison sentence of 2 years, with a fine of up to $100,000. Examples of class 4 felony crimes in Virginia include embezzlement and arson of unoccupied buildings.

Class 5 felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Examples of class 5 felony crimes in Virginia include involuntary manslaughter and extortion.

Class 6 felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Examples of class 6 felony crimes in Virginia include animal cruelty and repeat larcenies.

TRAFFIC INFRACTION

What is a traffic infraction? A Virginia traffic infraction is a violation of public code, but is not a criminal offense. As such, VA traffic infractions are never punished by jail time. Virginia Traffic infractions are punished by monetary penalty, and sometimes they are also punished administratively by the DMV through points on your license.

Adding points on your license is not part of VA court proceedings. The penalty is only administrative in nature.

Whether your home state DMV will penalize you administratively for a Virginia traffic infraction / violation is wholly dependent upon your state’s DMV. So, you can easily be punished twice for the same ticket or offense – once by a Virginia court, and a second time by the DMV.

RELEVANT VA CODES, LAWS AND PENALTIES FOR DEFINING VIRGINIA PENALTIES / PUNISHMENTS

§ 18.2-7. Criminal act not to merge civil remedy.

The commission of a crime shall not stay or merge any civil remedy.

§ 18.2-8. Felonies, misdemeanors and traffic infractions defined.

Offenses are either felonies or misdemeanors. Such offenses as are punishable with death or confinement in a state correctional facility are felonies; all other offenses are misdemeanors. Traffic infractions are violations of public order as defined in § 46.2-100 and not deemed to be criminal in nature.

§ 18.2-9. Classification of criminal offenses.

(1) Felonies are classified, for the purposes of punishment and sentencing, into six classes:

(a) Class 1 felony

(b) Class 2 felony

(c) Class 3 felony

(d) Class 4 felony

(e) Class 5 felony

(f) Class 6 felony.

(2) Misdemeanors are classified, for the purposes of punishment and sentencing, into four classes:

(a) Class 1 misdemeanor

(b) Class 2 misdemeanor

(c) Class 3 misdemeanor

(d) Class 4 misdemeanor.

§ 18.2-12. Same; where no punishment or maximum punishment prescribed.

A misdemeanor for which no punishment or no maximum punishment is prescribed by statute shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

§ 18.2-13. Same; by reference.

Where a statute in this Code prescribes punishment by stating that the offense is a misdemeanor, or that it is punishable as provided for in § 18.2-12, the offense shall be deemed to be a Class 1 misdemeanor.

§ 18.2-14. How unclassified offenses punished.

Offenses defined in Title 18.2 and in other titles in the Code, for which punishment is prescribed without specification as to the class of the offense, shall be punished according to the punishment prescribed in the section or sections thus defining the offense.

§ 18.2-16. How common-law offenses punished.

A common-law offense, for which punishment is prescribed by statute, shall be punished only in the mode so prescribed.

§ 18.2-11. Punishment for conviction of misdemeanor.

The authorized punishments for conviction of a misdemeanor are:

(a) For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

(b) For Class 2 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than six months and a fine of not more than $1,000, either or both.

(c) For Class 3 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $500.

(d) For Class 4 misdemeanors, a fine of not more than $250.

For a misdemeanor offense prohibiting proximity to children as described in subsection A of § 18.2-370.2, the sentencing court is authorized to impose the punishment set forth in subsection B of that section in addition to any other penalty provided by law.

§ 18.2-10. Punishment for conviction of felony; penalty.

The authorized punishments for conviction of a felony are:

(a) For Class 1 felonies, death, if the person so convicted was 18 years of age or older at the time of the offense and is not determined to be mentally retarded pursuant to § 19.2-264.3:1.1, or imprisonment for life and, subject to subdivision (g), a fine of not more than $100,000. If the person was under 18 years of age at the time of the offense or is determined to be mentally retarded pursuant to § 19.2-264.3:1.1, the punishment shall be imprisonment for life and, subject to subdivision (g), a fine of not more than $100,000.

(b) For Class 2 felonies, imprisonment for life or for any term not less than 20 years and, subject to subdivision (g), a fine of not more than $100,000.

(c) For Class 3 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than five years nor more than 20 years and, subject to subdivision (g), a fine of not more than $100,000.

(d) For Class 4 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than two years nor more than 10 years and, subject to subdivision (g), a fine of not more than $100,000.

(e) For Class 5 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

(f) For Class 6 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

(g) Except as specifically authorized in subdivision (e) or (f), or in Class 1 felonies for which a sentence of death is imposed, the court shall impose either a sentence of imprisonment together with a fine, or imprisonment only. However, if the defendant is not a natural person, the court shall impose only a fine.

For any felony offense committed (i) on or after January 1, 1995, the court may, and (ii) on or after July 1, 2000, shall, except in cases in which the court orders a suspended term of confinement of at least six months, impose an additional term of not less than six months nor more than three years, which shall be suspended conditioned upon successful completion of a period of post-release supervision pursuant to § 19.2-295.2 and compliance with such other terms as the sentencing court may require. However, such additional term may only be imposed when the sentence includes an active term of incarceration in a correctional facility.

For a felony offense prohibiting proximity to children as described in subsection A of § 18.2-370.2, the sentencing court is authorized to impose the punishment set forth in that section in addition to any other penalty provided by law.

§ 18.2-12.1. Mandatory minimum punishment; definition.

“Mandatory minimum” wherever it appears in this Code means, for purposes of imposing punishment upon a person convicted of a crime, that the court shall impose the entire term of confinement, the full amount of the fine and the complete requirement of community service prescribed by law. The court shall not suspend in full or in part any punishment described as mandatory minimum punishment.

§ 18.2-18. How principals in second degree and accessories before the fact punished.

In the case of every felony, every principal in the second degree and every accessory before the fact may be indicted, tried, convicted and punished in all respects as if a principal in the first degree; provided, however, that except in the case of a killing for hire under the provisions of subdivision 2 of § 18.2-31 or a killing pursuant to the direction or order of one who is engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise under the provisions of subdivision 10 of § 18.2-31 or a killing pursuant to the direction or order of one who is engaged in the commission of or attempted commission of an act of terrorism under the provisions of subdivision 13 of § 18.2-31, an accessory before the fact or principal in the second degree to a capital murder shall be indicted, tried, convicted and punished as though the offense were murder in the first degree.

§ 18.2-19. How accessories after the fact punished; certain exceptions.

In the case of every felony, every accessory after the fact shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor; provided, however, no person in the relation of husband or wife, parent or grandparent, child or grandchild, brother or sister, by consanguinity or affinity, or servant to the offender, who, after the commission of a felony, shall aid or assist a principal felon or accessory before the fact to avoid or escape from prosecution or punishment, shall be deemed an accessory after the fact.

§ 18.2-15. Place of punishment.

Imprisonment for conviction of a felony shall be by confinement in a state correctional facility, unless in Class 5 and Class 6 felonies the jury or court trying the case without a jury fixes the punishment at confinement in jail. Imprisonment for conviction of a misdemeanor shall be by confinement in jail.

§ 18.2-26. Attempts to commit noncapital felonies; how punished.

Every person who attempts to commit an offense which is a noncapital felony shall be punished as follows:

(1) If the felony attempted is punishable by a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or a term of years in excess of twenty years, an attempt thereat shall be punishable as a Class 4 felony.

(2) If the felony attempted is punishable by a maximum punishment of twenty years’ imprisonment, an attempt thereat shall be punishable as a Class 5 felony.

(3) If the felony attempted is punishable by a maximum punishment of less than twenty years’ imprisonment, an attempt thereat shall be punishable as a Class 6 felony.

§ 18.2-27. Attempts to commit misdemeanors; how punished.

Every person who attempts to commit an offense which is a misdemeanor shall be punishable by the same punishment prescribed for the offense the commission of which was the object of the attempt.

§ 18.2-28. Maximum punishment for attempts.

Any provision in this article notwithstanding, in no event shall the punishment for an attempt to commit an offense exceed the maximum punishment had the offense been committed.

*This article is for your personal information only and is not intended as legal advice. Nothing herein shall create an attorney – client relationship. This area of the law is very complex. Every case is different and the information contained herein is general. This information is not intended to be legal advice. Nor is this material intended to replace consultation with a lawyer. Always consult a licensed lawyer for your particular case. Call 703.870.6868 for a consultation.