All criminal offenses in Virginia are classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. Felonies are generally more serious than misdemeanors and can be punishable by death or confinement in a state correctional facility. Misdemeanors can result in anywhere from no jail time up to a maximum of 12 months in jail.
A conviction for a misdemeanor or felony will leave an individual with a criminal record. The best way to avoid a conviction is to contact an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to understand your rights and build a strong defense. Please contact me today to discuss your case.
Virginia Misdemeanor Classification
Misdemeanors are separated into separate classes, from Class 1 to Class 4, with Class 1 misdemeanors carrying the harshest penalties. Any misdemeanors that are not classified or do not have a stated maximum punishment are punishable as Class 1 misdemeanors.
Class 1 Misdemeanors
Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanor offenses in Virginia. Offenses that are more serious than Class 1 misdemeanors are felonies. The maximum penalties for a Class 1 Misdemeanor conviction include:
- Up to 12 months in jail,
- Fine of up to $2,500, or
Examples of Class 1 Misdemeanors in Virginia include:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
- Reckless Driving
- Petit Larceny
- Assault and Battery
- Disorderly Conduct
Class 2 Misdemeanors
Class 2 misdemeanors also carry the possibility of jail time. The maximum penalties for a Class 2 Misdemeanor conviction include:
- Up to 6 months in jail,
- Fine up to $1,000, or
Examples of Class 2 Misdemeanors in Virginia include:
- Driving Without a License
- Possession of a Schedule IV Controlled Substance
- Displaying a Fictitious Vehicle Permit
- Second Custody or Visitation Order Violation
Class 3 Misdemeanors
Class 3 misdemeanors are generally only punishable by a fine. These offenses do not carry jail time. The maximum penalty for a Class 3 Misdemeanor conviction includes:
- Fine up to $500.
Examples of Class 3 Misdemeanors in Virginia include:
- Possession of a Schedule V Controlled Substance
- Violating a Custody or Visitation Order
- Willful Misconduct by a Notary
- Driving Without Car Insurance
- Using Reflective Window Tinting
Class 4 Misdemeanors
Class 4 misdemeanors do not carry jail time and are generally punishable by a fine. This is the lowest level criminal offense in Virginia. Traffic infractions are considered violations of public order and are not technically criminal offenses. The maximum penalty for a Class 4 Misdemeanor conviction includes:
- Fine up to $250.
Examples of Class 4 Misdemeanors in Virginia include:
- Public Intoxication (Profane Swearing and Intoxication in Public)
- Drinking While Operating a Motor Vehicle/Open Container
- Possession of a Schedule VI Controlled Substance
- Trespassing on Railroad Tracks
Virginia Misdemeanors and Maximum Penalties
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-11, the authorized punishments for a conviction of a misdemeanor include:
Up to 12 months
Up to $2,500
Up to 6 months
Up to $1,000
(no jail time)
Up to $500
(no jail time)
Up to $250
Other Penalties and Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction
Any criminal conviction can come with additional penalties and collateral consequences.
Additional Penalties Beyond Jail and Fines
There are additional penalties the court or other government agencies can impose after a misdemeanor conviction. This is generally specific to the type of offense.
For example, a DUI, reckless driving, or other traffic offense could result in a suspended driver's license. In order to get your license reinstated after a DUI, the court may require you to complete substance abuse treatment or education.
Domestic violence charges may result in a restraining order or mandatory treatment or counseling. A conviction for a drug offense may require drug treatment or substance abuse education.
Consequences of a Criminal Record
A criminal conviction can follow you beyond any fines or jail time ordered by the court. A criminal conviction will result in a criminal record, even for a minor misdemeanor offense. Generally, an individual convicted of a crime in Virginia cannot have the crime expunged from his or her criminal record. Criminal records are public records and may be searchable by the public and turn up on any background check.
Misdemeanor Conviction Impact on Employment
A criminal conviction can also impact job prospects and employment. Many jobs in Virginia are on an at-will basis. This means an employer can fire an employee for any non-prohibited reason. If an employer finds out about a criminal charge, the employer may decide to fire the employee.
In most cases, an employer will take criminal charges more seriously if it is related to the job. Employees who drive as part of the job may face stricter treatment by an employer if the employee was convicted of a DUI, reckless driving, or driving under the influence of drugs. Similarly, if an employee is around controlled substances as part of the job, a drug crime may result in termination by the employer.
Prosecutors Using Misdemeanors in Plea Deals
When someone is charged with multiple offenses, or in circumstances where the prosecutor could charge the offense as a misdemeanor or a felony, the prosecutor may use this circumstance to leverage a plea. For example, the prosecutor may agree they will charge the offense as a misdemeanor instead of a felony if the defendant agrees to plead guilty.
For the defendant, it may seem like he or she has no real option and pleading guilty is the best option. Before pleading guilty to a crime, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney about your case. You may have a stronger case than you know and can avoid any criminal conviction by fighting the charges or having the case dismissed.
Charlottesville Misdemeanor Defense Lawyer
Misdemeanors in Virginia can lead to jail time and a criminal record. The prosecutor may try and get you to plead guilty by threatening multiple or felony charges. Before pleading guilty to any crime in Virginia, make sure your rights and how to fight criminal charges. If you were arrested for a misdemeanor offense in Charlottesville, Albemarle, or elsewhere in Central VA contact me today for a free consultation.