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Understanding the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Virginia

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you are undoubtedly worried about what the future may hold. One of the most important things that you’ll need to learn after being charged is whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. These are the two main classes of criminal offenses (they are each further broken down), with the felony being for more serious crimes.

It is very important to note that both felonies and misdemeanors can be very serious, carrying punishments including jail or prison time, as well as punishments and restrictions that can extend for years.


If convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, the Commonwealth of Virginia allows the courts to sentence the convicted person to be incarcerated for a period of time. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the range of incarceration is from no time at all up to twelve months in jail. A few misdemeanors carry “mandatory minimum” penalties: for example DUI convictions with a high blood alcohol content or a second DUI within a certain period of time, can carry at least five days and up to thirty days in jail. A mandatory minimum sentence means that the time must be served and cannot be suspended by the Court. If convicted of a felony, the range of incarceration is from no time at all up to life in prison, or even the death penalty. Many felony charges also carry mandatory minimum sentences: for example, a violent felon in possession of a firearm conviction carries a five year mandatory minimum sentence.  Generally, the length of incarceration time to which you are sentenced will determine whether you serve your time in a local jail or a Department of Corrections prison.

Financial Penalties

Both types of charges can result in serious financial penalties.. A class one misdemeanor (the most serious misdemeanor) can come with a fine of up to $2500. A class 4 misdemeanor (the least serious) can come with a fine of up to $250. Fines associated with felony convictions can range from $2500 to $100,000.

Long Term Penalties

Those who are convicted of a felony will lose their right to vote in elections, and also their right to own or possess firearms. Both of these rights can be regained, but only after you have completed a series of requirements and submitted the necessary documentation. 

Of course, an indirect penalty of a criminal conviction is that you typically have to reveal the conviction to potential employers when applying for a job. This can make it extremely difficult to find good work, and in some industries it can actually exclude you from consideration.

Seek an Effective Defense Today

Both felonies and misdemeanors can have a serious, long-term impact on your life. This is not something you want to try to handle on your own. Retaining an experienced criminal law attorney will give you the best possible chance at winning your case. Please get in touch with us today to get started with a consultation. 

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