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

Overview of Virginia Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Traffic Offenses.

Definition of Misdemeanor under VA Law – Offenses punishable by fine not exceeding $2,500 or being jailed for a term not exceeding 12 months or a combination of fine and jail within these limits. Criminal record attached upon conviction.

Definition of Felony under Va Law – A crime punishable by death or confinement in the penitentiary. See below for classification of felonies and the punishment for each classification. Criminal record attached upon conviction.

Traffic Citation – punishable by a fine, but no criminal record.


What are the penalties for felony and misdemeanor charges under Virginia law?


WHAT IS A MISDEMEANOR IN VIRGINIA?

A misdemeanor is a criminal offense. Virginia has four categories of misdemeanor crimes – ranging from Class 1 (the most serious) to Class 4 (the least serious). Misdemeanors are criminal charges and will be added to, and remain part of, your criminal record if you do not contest the charge or if you are found guilty of the charge.

Misdemeanor charges in Virginia can be brought by police, civilians, and prosecutors. Police officers will either charge misdemeanors on a citation or on a summons, or they may arrest the accused and bring the accused in front of a magistrate. It is also possible for a civilian to go in front of a magistrate in the locality where the alleged crime occurred, and swear out probable cause to a magistrate, who may then issue a warrant for an arrest. Prosecutors may present misdemeanor charges to a grand jury, who may then indict the accused.

Upon conviction, misdemeanor jail sentences are served in a Virginia county or city jail, not a Virginia state correctional facility.


Penalties for Virginia Misdemeanor Charges

Misdemeanor ClassMaximum Jail SentenceMaximum Fine
Class 112 Months in Jail$2,500.00 Fine
Class 26 Months in Jail$1,000.00 Fine
Class 3N/A$500.00 Fine
Class 4N/A$250.00 Fine

Class 1 misdemeanors are punished by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Examples of Class 1 misdemeanors include traffic offenses such as Reckless Driving or DUI, and criminal offenses such as Assault & Battery or Petit Larceny.

Class 2 misdemeanors are punished by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Examples of Class 2 misdemeanors include possession of a Schedule IV drug.

Class 3 misdemeanors are punished by a fine of up to $500. Examples of Class 3 misdemeanors include possession of a Schedule V drug.

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


Virginia misdemeanors are served at halftime. Virginia law states, “unless he is serving a mandatory minimum sentence of confinement, each prisoner sentenced to 12 months or less for a misdemeanor or any combination of misdemeanors shall earn good conduct credit at the rate of one day for each one day served, including all days served while confined in jail prior to conviction and sentencing, in which the prisoner has not violated the written rules and regulations of the jail.” Mandatory minimum time, for crimes such as DUI, will require 100% of the mandatory time to be served.


VIRGINIA FELONY OFFENSES: What is a Felony charge in Virginia?

Felony charges are the most serious crimes under Virginia law. The most serious Felony offenses are punished by the death penalty or life imprisonment. Virginia has 6 categories of Felony crimes – ranging from Class 1 (the most serious) to Class 6 (the least serious). Felonies are criminal charges and will be added to, and permanently remain part of, your criminal record if you are found guilty of a felony.

Felony charges in Virginia can be charged by police officers, detectives, and prosecutors. Police officers will arrest the accused and bring the accused in front of a magistrate. Detectives will normally get a Felony warrant first and then arrest the accused. Prosecutors may present Felony charges to a grand jury, who may then indict the accused.

Felony sentences are served in a Virginia state correctional facility, unless the sentence is for less than one year, in which case it may be served in a local Virginia detention center.

Penalties for Virginia Felony Charges

Felony ClassMaximum ImprisonmentMinimum ImprisonmentMaximum Fine
Class 1Life in PrisonN/A$100,000.00 Fine
Class 2Life in Prison20 Years$100,000.00 Fine
Class 320 Years5 years$100,000.00 Fine
Class 410 Years2 Years$100,000.00 Fine
Class 510 Years1 Year$2,500.00 Fine
Class 65 years1 Year$2,500.00 Fine
UnclassifiedVariesVariesVaries

 

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 the 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 a monetary penalty, and sometimes they are also punished administratively by the DMV through points on your license.

Points on your license are not part of court proceedings. The DMV point penalty is only administrative in nature and is assessed by the DMV about 30 days, or so, after court finalizes your charge.

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.

§ 53.1-116. What records and policy jailer shall keep; how time deducted or added for felons and misdemeanants; payment of fine and costs by person committed to jail until he pays.
A. The jailer shall keep a (i) record describing each person committed to jail, the terms of confinement, for what offense or cause he was committed, and when received into jail; (ii) record of each prisoner; and (iii) written policy stating the criteria for and conditions of earned credit in the facility and the revocation of such credit.
Unless he is serving a mandatory minimum sentence of confinement, each prisoner sentenced to 12 months or less for a misdemeanor or any combination of misdemeanors shall earn good conduct credit at the rate of one day for each one day served, including all days served while confined in jail prior to conviction and sentencing, in which the prisoner has not violated the written rules and regulations of the jail.
Prisoners eligible for parole under § 53.1-151, 53.1-152 or 53.1-153 shall earn good conduct credit at a rate of 15 days for each 30 days served with satisfactory conduct.
The jailer may grant the prisoner additional credits for performance of institutional work assignments, participation in classes, or participation in local work force programs, if available at the facility, at the rate of five days for every 30 days served. The time so deducted shall be allowed to each prisoner for such time as he is confined in jail. It shall be the responsibility of the jailer in each facility to determine the manner in which these additional credits may be awarded and to include this information in the written policy mandated by clause (iii) of this subsection.
For each violation of the rules prescribed herein, the time so deducted shall be added until it equals the full sentence imposed upon the prisoner by the court.
However, any prisoner committed to jail upon a felony offense committed on or after January 1, 1995, shall not earn good conduct credit, sentence credit, earned sentence credit, other credit, or a combination of any credits in excess of that permissible under Article 4 (§ 53.1-202.2 et seq.) of Chapter 6 of this title. So much of an order of any court contrary to the provisions of this section shall be deemed null and void.
B. Notwithstanding the provisions of § 19.2-350, in the event a person who was committed to jail to be therein confined until he pays a fine imposed on him by the court in which he was tried should desire to pay such fine and costs, he may pay the same to the person in charge of the jail. The person receiving such moneys shall execute and deliver an official receipt therefor and shall promptly transmit the amount so paid to the clerk of the court which imposed the fine and costs. Such clerk shall give him an official receipt therefor and shall properly record the receipt of such moneys.
C. The administrator of a local or regional jail shall not assign a person to a home/electronic incarceration program pursuant to subsection C of § 53.1-131.2 in a locality which has a jail operated by a sheriff, without the consent of the sheriff.

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