Virginia Misdemeanor Classes: A Quick Guide

There are 5 different types of misdemeanors in Virginia, each carrying different penalties. These types are called “misdemeanor classes.”

Misdemeanors are criminal offenses which generally result in less than a year of jail time.

The Virginia Code categorizes all misdemeanors into one of five different classes.

Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious, while Class 4 misdemeanors are generally only punished with small fines.

Class U misdemeanors are for other miscellaneous crimes, such as first-offense marijuana possession.

A misdemeanor conviction will usually result in fines, jail time, and a mark on your permanent criminal record.

For this reason, it’s important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible if you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor.

In this article, we’ll go over each of the five different misdemeanor classes in Virginia.

We’ll also discuss the penalties you can expect if you’re charged with a misdemeanor from one of these classes.

What is a Misdemeanor?

Man drinking alcohol while driving.

As noted above, the Virginia Code categorizes most misdemeanors into one of the five major misdemeanor classes, depending on the severity of the crime.

While misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies, they’re still criminal charges that will show up on your criminal record.

They also carry significant enough penalties to affect your life, such as months in jail and fines of several thousand dollars.

Note that misdemeanors are also not the same thing as minor traffic infractions.

While small infractions such as speeding tickets are still serious charges, they’re still something separate from criminal misdemeanors.

Additionally, some crimes can fall into multiple misdemeanor classes depending on the specific facts of the case.

For example, some drug possession charges can fall under several different misdemeanor classes depending on the Schedule type of the drug.

This is one of the reasons that having trustworthy legal representation is so important.

An experienced criminal lawyer can often lower these sentences by arguing for penalties from a lower class.

Class 1 Misdemeanors

As mentioned above, Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious variety of misdemeanor in Virginia.

Anyone found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor faces a maximum fine of up to $2,500 and/or a prison sentence of up to 12 months.

Additionally, they may also face other consequences based on the nature of their crime.

For example, Virginia courts often suspend the licenses of individuals convicted of DUI offenses.

Some of the most commonly charged Class 1 misdemeanors include:

Class 2 Misdemeanors

Class 2 misdemeanors are generally less serious than the crimes found in Class 1.

However, Virginia law still treats them pretty harshly.

Anyone found guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor faces a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.

Common examples of Class 2 misdemeanors include:

As with Class 1 misdemeanors, the court may set other penalties as well, such as the suspension of driving privileges.

Class 3 and Class 4 Misdemeanors

Class 3 and 4 misdemeanors are the least serious misdemeanor classes. Virginia courts generally punish these crimes with fines instead of jail time.

For Class 3 misdemeanors, a judge can fine you up to $500. Meanwhile, fines for Class 4 misdemeanors the maximum fine that can be imposed is $250.

As one other note on sentencing, while these lower charges generally don’t come with jail time, that option isn’t entirely off the table.

Especially for repeat offenders, courts can add additional penalties depending on the circumstances of the case.

Some common examples of Class 3 misdemeanors include:

In a similar manner, Class 4 misdemeanors include crimes such as:

  • Public Intoxication – Public intoxication falls under the same law as “profane swearing” in public, although this code section is almost never enforced.
  • Unauthorized Use of Public Property – Any unauthorized use of public property will generally result in a Class 4 misdemeanor charge. For example, trespassing onto a cemetery at night is punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.
  • Illegal Possession of a Schedule VI Controlled Substance – Schedule VI is a sort of catch-all category for drugs not included on the rest of the list.

Undefined (Class U) Misdemeanors

Sometimes, the Virginia Code will list a crime as a misdemeanor but never specify a specific class.

These are sometimes referred to as “Class U” misdemeanors.

The penalties for these types of misdemeanors generally fall somewhere between the Class 3 and Class 2 penalties outlined above.

The most common Class U misdemeanor is the unlawful possession of marijuana by a first offender.

This crime is punishable by a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

Most Class U misdemeanors change to a normal class of misdemeanor after the crime meets a certain requirement.

For example, while a first offense of marijuana possession is a Class U misdemeanor, a second or subsequent offense counts as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Conclusion

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The key takeaway here is that Virginia law allows the court a lot of leeway when it comes to sentencing individuals charged with misdemeanors.

For this reason, it’s critically important that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible after being charged with a crime.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate through the sometimes complex legal system.

Knowing about Virginia’s misdemeanor classes, and what they mean for sentencing, will help you understand your options after a criminal charge.

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