After being charged with a crime, your top goal is probably to get the matter dropped completely or found not guilty. That’s understandable. Your name would be cleared, and you would face no punishments.
But that’s not always possible. Sometimes, there isn’t a clear path to resolving criminal charges with zero repercussions. So, what’s the next best thing?
Often, it means trying to get the initial charge against you reduced to a lesser offense. For instance, if you were charged with a felony in Virginia, getting it reduced to a misdemeanor could keep you out of prison, reduce your fines, and decrease the negative impact on your life.
Felonies vs. Misdemeanors in Virginia
Virginia separates criminal charges into two broad categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Each type of felony and misdemeanor comes with distinct sentencing guidelines if convicted, with less severe misdemeanors.
Virginia Felony Penalties
Virginia divides felonies into “classes” based on their severity. Class 1 felonies are the most serious, and Class 6 felonies are the least. Don’t be fooled, though – any felony in VA is serious business.
- Class 1 Felonies: Life in prison up to the death penalty and fines of up to $100,000
- Class 2 Felonies: 20 years to life in prison and fines up to $100,000
- Class 3 Felonies: Five to 20 years in prison and fines up to $100,000
- Class 4 Felonies: Two to 10 years in prison and fines up to $100,000
- Class 5 Felonies: One to 10 years or up to one year in jail, as well as fines of up to $2,500
- Class 6 Felonies: One to five years or up to one year in jail, as well as fines of up to $2,500
As you can see, the penalties for all felony convictions are incredibly harsh. By reducing a felony to a misdemeanor, you can avoid many of these punishments and move on more quickly.
Virginia Misdemeanor Penalties
There are four classes of misdemeanors in Virginia. Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious.
Here are the penalties for misdemeanors in Virginia:
- Class 1: Up to 12 months in jail and fines up to $2,500
- Class 2: Up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000
- Class 3: These are not punished with jail time. Instead, you can be fined up to $500
- Class 4: For this misdemeanor class, you can be fined up to $250.
The maximum time you will spend behind bars for a simple misdemeanor is 12 months. And the top fine you could pay would be $2,500. Compare that to the maximum felony sentence, and you see plenty of reasons to try to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor in Virginia.
Reducing a Felony To a Misdemeanor in Virginia
How, exactly, do you get your felony reduced in Virginia? There are a few methods your defense lawyer can use, and they will depend on the details of your case. For instance, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea with the prosecutor in which you plead guilty to a misdemeanor but not the felony you were charged with.
You might also benefit from the fact that some Virginia crimes can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. This can make it easier to make a case that you should be charged with the less serious of the two.
When considering whether to agree to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor in Virginia, prosecutors consider the following:
- The strength of the evidence against you
- The resources necessary to pursue a criminal trial
- The likelihood that you will re-offend
- Whether justice will be served if you’re convicted of a misdemeanor instead of a felony
Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico Can Help
To reduce a felony to a misdemeanor in Virginia, you have to get everything right. You’ll have to know how the law applies to your particular case and go up against an experienced prosecutor. You will likely want some legal help.
The Roanoke criminal defense lawyers at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico are here to provide that help. With our track record of success and years of experience, we can give you the defense you need, so a criminal charge does not define the rest of your life. To get started, call us at (540) 343-9349 or contact us online.