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Criminal Offense Levels and Penalties

Criminal misdemeanors and felonies in Virginia are grouped into classes based on the gravity of the offense. Each class has general guidelines for minimum and maximum fines and jail time, if applicable. Classes are numerically labeled in descending order based on severity. For example, Class 1 misdemeanors are the highest level misdemeanor offenses. While most offenses fit into one of these classes, there are a few charges that are unclassified. One such case is first offense possession of marijuana. This is an unclassified misdemeanor charge with a maximum fine of $500, which is the same as a Class 3 misdemeanor, but the unclassified marijuana charge also carries the possibility of up to 30 days in jail and a 6-month driver’s license suspension.

*A quick note: The penalty schedules listed below are general guidelines meant to provide a cursory understanding of the criminal penalties in Virginia. The penalties imposed will be a based upon a number of factors that include, but are not limited to, the jurisdiction in which the case is heard, your prior criminal history, and details of the alleged offense. These guidelines are no substitute for the opinion and guidance of an attorney who has experience with your type of case.

Misdemeanor Penalty Schedule

Offense Level

Maximum Fine

Maximum Jail Time

Minimum Jail Time

Class 1 Misdemeanor $2,500 12 months Some DUI offenses
Class 2 Misdemeanor $1,000 6 months None
Class 3 Misdemeanor $500 None None
Class 4 Misdemeanor $250 None None

If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, it’s important to consider the maximum fines and jail time listed in the table above, but it is equally important to consider other penalties related to your specific offense. Some misdemeanor offenses, such as DUI, reckless driving, or driving while license suspended, can impact your driving privileges in Virginia. Additionally, even low level Class 4 offenses can impact employment or education opportunities. If convicted, you will be required to disclose that you have been convicted of a misdemeanor. While you may be able to explain that your public intoxication was a temporary lapse in judgment when you were younger, it would be much more desirable during a job interview to not have to mention it at all.

Felony Penalty Schedule

Offense Level

Maximum Fine

Maximum Jail Time

Minimum Jail Time

Class 1 Felony $100,000 Life (Possible Death Penalty)  
Class 2 Felony $100,000 Life 20 Years
Class 3 Felony $100,000 20 years 5 years
Class 4 Felony $100,000 10 years 2 years
Class 5 Felony $2,500 10 years 1 year
Class 6 Felony $2,500 5 years 1 year

An important distinction between misdemeanors and felonies is the nature of imprisonment. If you’ve been sentenced to serve time for a misdemeanor offense, you will be placed in a city or county jail; with a felony conviction, you will likely be serving time at a Virginia correctional facility. It’s possible to avoid prison time, even for charges that dictate a mandatory minimum prison sentence. A qualified criminal lawyer will work with the prosecution to keep their client out of prison in exchange for probation or alternative punishments.

Examples of Each Offense Level

Misdemeanors

Class 1 Misdemeanor: DUI, Reckless Driving, Assault, Trespass
Class 2 Misdemeanor: Possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance, Concealment of a Felony, Violation of a Visitation Order
Class 3 Misdemeanor: Possession of Schedule V controlled substance, some property destruction
Class 4 Misdemeanor: Public Intoxication, possession of schedule VI controlled substance

Felonies

Class 1 Felony: Premeditated Murder
Class 2 Felony: Aggravated Malicious Wounding, Attempted Capital Murder, Burglary with a deadly weapon
Class 3 Felony: Malicious Wounding, Arson when a person is inside a building
Class 4 Felony: Bribery, Receiving Money for the Earnings of a Prostitute (Pimping)
Class 5 Felony: Voluntary manslaughter, Computer Fraud of more than $200
Class 6 Felony: Unlawful Wounding, Third Offense Petit Larceny, Receipt of a Stolen Firearm