Criminal Charges - Felonies & Misdemeanors
The first step in understanding the charge(s) against you is to determine its classification. There are two basic classifications of charges in Virginia, misdemeanor or felony.
A felony can carry the possibility of a lengthy sentence (the lowest level of felony carries 1-5 years in jail) or even the death penalty. The most serious misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of up to 12 months in jail. If you are charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor, you need an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney.
Misdemeanors are separated into classes. Class 1 is the most serious, but also the most common classification. The attorneys at Chludzinski & Mitchell, PLLC have represented thousands of individuals in misdemeanor cases. Some of the most common Class 1 Misdemeanor Criminal Offenses are:
Driving Under Influence: If you in control of a motor vehicle (sitting in a parked car that is turned on still qualifies as you operating that motor vehicle) on a road in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and you have alcohol in your system such that it is impairing your ability to drive, typically a 0.08 or greater, you may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). If you are operating a motor vehicle with a drug or other substance impairing your ability to drive you may be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). These are effectively the same idea (you are not safe to drive a car), just proven differently.
Reckless Driving: If you drive 20 MPH or more over the speed limit you can be charged with Reckless Driving. If at any point you ever go over 80 MPH over the speed limit on any road you can be charged with Reckless Driving. If you drive in any way that endangers the life or safety of yourself or another you can be charged with Reckless Driving.
Domestic Violence: If you are arrested for assault and battery against a family or household member, it is almost always a Class 1 Misdemeanor. If you have two prior convictions for Domestic A&B (or one prior conviction of similar related offenses), then this charge may be elevated to a felony.
Petit Larceny: The stealing goods, money, or other property. This is often referred to as shoplifting. As long as the value of the items taken totals less than $500, your charge will be a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Anything over $500 becomes a felony. Note: different jurisdictions deal with this particular charge VERY differently. For example, in Fairfax there is a first offender program for first time misdemeanor offenders, while in Prince William the prosecutors often ask the court to impose active jail time.
Simple Assault and Battery: A harmful or offensive touching of another is a battery. An assault occurs when you place someone in imminent fear of a battery (example if moving your fist as if to punch someone and stopping two inches from their face).
Driving on a Suspended License: If your driver's license was suspended by the DMV for failure to pay fines and costs, VA Code Section 46.2-301, and you are caught driving on a public road or highway then you can be charged with driving on a suspended license. The most common reason your license get suspended is for failure to pay a traffic ticket or court fine and costs related to a criminal charge. A 3rd conviction under this code section remains a Class 1 Misdemeanor, but carries a mandatory jail sentence of 10 days.
Classes of Misdemeanors and Their Corresponding Punishments
“(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.”
Virginia recognizes six separate classes of felonies. A felony conviction can result in years in jail, massive fines, and the permanent loss of certain rights, such as the right to vote or possess a firearm.
Felony charges encompass a significant portion of our Criminal Defense practice at Chludzinski & Mitchell, PLLC. Our attorneys have handed hundreds of drug possession and larceny offenses, as well as cases as serious as robbery, rape, malicious wounding, and first degree murder. No matter what class of felony you are charged with, it is extremely important to have a criminal defense attorney with extensive litigation experience.
Classes of Felonies and Their Corresponding Punishments
Class 1 Felonies
Class 1 Felonies carry the most severe penalties. Examples of crimes that are classified as Class 1 Felonies are capital and first-degree murder. If you are convicted of capital murder, you may receive the death penalty, provided that you are 18 years of age or older. First degree murder is another Class 1 Felony for which you can receive a life sentence (Virginia does not have parole, so all life sentences are inherently without the possibility of parole). Fines can go up to $100,000.
Class 2 Felonies
Class 2 felonies carry a possible sentence of 20 years in jail to life, with fines of up to $100,000. There are many class two felonies, but a good rule of thumb is that most involve intentional criminal acts with serious and lasting damage. Some examples include aggravated malicious wounding, kidnapping, arson of an occupied building, certain kinds of breaking and entering, as well as some forms of murder.
Class 3 Felonies
Class 3 Felonies carry a possible sentence of 5 to 20 years in jail, in addition to a maximum fine of $100,000. Examples the most common class three felonies include malicious wounding and certain drug crimes.
Class 4 Felonies
Class 4 Felonies carry a possible sentence of 2 to 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of $100,000. Some of the most common examples of class four felonies include voluntary manslaughter, arson of an unoccupied building, and certain sex offenses.
Class 5 Felonies
Class 5 Felonies carry a possible sentence of 1 to 10 years in jail and a maximum fine of up to $2,500. Examples of some of the most common class five felonies include involuntary manslaughter (such as a vehicular homicide resulting from reckless driving or driving under the influence), as well as abduction and perjury. Often Class 5 Felonies have corresponding misdemeanor offenses that the prosecutor could elect to pursue instead.
Class 6 Felonies
Class 6 felonies are the least serious of the felony offenses and like Class 5 Felonies often have corresponding misdemeanor offenses that the prosecutor may elect to pursue instead. The possible penalties for a Class 6 Felony include 1 to 5 years in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Some of the most common examples of Class 6 felonies include possession with intent to distribute over ½ an ounce of marijuana, petit larceny 3rd offense, certain kinds of identity theft, animal cruelty, and failing to appear in court on a felony charge (violation of a court order).