Crimes are classified into two categories in the state of Virginia — felonies and misdemeanors. Of the two, felonies bring the more severe punishments, given that the death penalty is still legal, although misdemeanor convictions can also have severe long-term repercussions. For more information about the differentiation of felonies and misdemeanors, and what they can mean for you, get in contact with a Virginia criminal defense lawyer.
In Virginia, felonies and misdemeanors are two different levels of crime. They follow different processes in the court system and carry different penalties.
Misdemeanors are considered the lesser of the two criminal offenses in Virginia. If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor, you may face up to twelve months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 upon conviction. In Virginia, there are four categories of misdemeanor crimes, ranging from Class 1—the most serious type of misdemeanor, which would be punishable by up to the highest fine and up to the highest amount of time in jail—to a Class 4, which is the least serious in Virginia. A misdemeanor sentence is served in a local county or city jail, not in the state prison.
A felony, on the other hand, is the most serious crime in Virginia. Felony sentences are served in the state facility, which means prison instead of the county or city jail. Like misdemeanors, felonies range in classes. The fines can range up to around $100,000 and the sentences may extend to life in prison or the death penalty in Virginia.
Theft is an example of a crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony in Virginia. For example, if you are charged with a theft offense in Virginia, it’s possible that you’re charged with either a petit larceny or a grand larceny. A petit larceny is the lesser offense and it would be a misdemeanor in Virginia courts, and carry with it the misdemeanor penalties of up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. A grand larceny would be a felony offense, punishable by time in prison as opposed to serving in county jail. The distinction between the two types in Virginia is basically the dollar value of the items that you are accused of stealing.
For example, petty larceny is theft of something of value, but less than $200 in value, and that’s going to be a Class 1 misdemeanor. Anything over $200 will result in a charge of grand larceny in Virginia. So the worth of what you’re accused of stealing would make a big difference in terms of how your case is handled in the court system.
If someone is charged with a crime in Virginia, he or she should first and foremost consult with an attorney; that should be the first step that somebody should take after being charged with a crime. And you should do that right away; if you’re not being interrogated by the police, consult with an attorney immediately. Alternatively, if you are charged with a crime but you have not yet been released, you need to invoke your right to silence and your right to an attorney. You need to tell the police officer—and remember to be polite—that you do not wish to speak without an attorney present and that you are invoking your right to remain silent.
The other important thing to remember is not to talk about your case with anyone except your attorney. There have been many cases and many times where somebody has made a comment to a friend or family member or on Facebook and it has come back to help the prosecution secure a conviction at trial.