Vermont Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences

Learn how felony sentencing works in Vermont.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated November 13, 2023

Vermont, like most states, distinguishes criminal offenses based on their severity— the most serious crimes are felonies, while less serious crimes are treated as misdemeanors. Felonies carry a potential penalty of more than two years and up to life in prison. This article will provide basic information on felony penalties and sentencing in Vermont.

How Vermont Classifies Felonies

Vermont doesn't divide felonies into classes or levels (like class A or 1 felonies). Rather, the law specifies penalties on a crime-by-crime basis. Felonies have a maximum sentence term and, sometimes, a minimum. Most crimes also indicate a maximum fine. Unless an enhanced penalty applies, the judge can't go above the maximum term when handing down a sentence.

Examples of Felony Crimes and Penalties in Vermont

Below are examples of felony crimes and penalties:

  • first-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life without the possibility of parole
  • burglary of an occupied dwelling is punishable by up to 25 years' incarceration and a $1,000 fine
  • aggravated assault is punishable by up to 15 years' incarceration and a $10,000 fine
  • first-degree arson is punishable by 2 to 10 years' incarceration, plus a maximum $2,000 fine
  • grand larceny is punishable by up to 10 years' incarceration and a $5,000 fine, and
  • aggravated stalking is punishable by up to 5 years' incarceration and a $25,000 fine.

Vermont does not have the death penalty.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 13, §§ 502, 1024, 1063, 1201, 2303, 2501 (2023).)

Enhanced Felony Penalties in Vermont

Vermont law permits judges to impose enhanced or additional penalties for certain felony offenses.

Habitual offenders. A defendant who commits a fourth or subsequent felony faces a life sentence under Vermont's habitual criminal law.

Felony hate crimes. Vermont law allows judges to impose harsher sentences for hate crimes. A defendant commits a hate crime when the offense is motivated by a victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or military service.

Felony involving a weapon. A defendant can face an additional penalty for committing a felony while carrying a dangerous or deadly weapon. This offense carries up to five years of prison time (and is in addition to the sentence for the underlying felony).

(Vt. Stat. tit. 13, §§ 11, 1455, 4005 (2023).)

How Felony Sentencing Works in Vermont

In Vermont, the sentencing judge will typically set a minimum and maximum term for the sentence—such as 10 to 20 years' imprisonment. The judge may:

  • order the offender to serve their sentence in prison (called a correctional facility), or
  • suspend the prison sentence and impose a sentencing alternative.

In a few instances, the judge might defer (hold off on) sentencing altogether and place the offender on probation.

Before imposing the sentence, the court must consider the nature and circumstances of the crime, as well as the defendant's criminal history, character, treatment needs, and risk to self and others.

Felony Probation and Other Sentencing Alternatives in Vermont

Vermont law allows judges to impose sentencing alternatives to incarceration, such as probation and deferred sentencing. In some cases, a defendant might be able to avoid criminal court through diversion.

Felony Probation

A judge may impose a sentence of incarceration but hold off on sending the defendant to prison and instead place the defendant on probation. Probation allows the defendant to serve all or part of their sentence in the community. Remaining in the community is contingent on a defendant's compliance with the probation terms. Conditions of supervised probation may include maintaining employment, completing community service hours, undergoing treatment, paying restitution, participating in restorative justice, and not contacting the victim.

A violation of probation can result in a modification of probation terms or revocation and incarceration. Violations are subject to review by the court. A judge can terminate probation early if the probationer's good conduct warrants it.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 28, §§ 205, 251, 303 (2023).)

Deferred Sentencing

In some cases, a judge might enter a guilty plea or verdict but stop short of imposing a sentence. Referred to as deferred sentencing, this option isn't available for all felonies. But, when it is an option, deferred sentencing gives a defendant a chance to avoid a criminal conviction. A judge will impose terms and conditions similar to probation. Successful completion of the deferred sentence terms allows the court to strike the adjudication of guilt, discharge the case, and expunge the entire record (from arrest to sentencing).

(Vt. Stat. tit. 13, § 7041 (2023).)

Restorative (Reparative) Justice

For nonviolent felonies, the judge may refer a person to a community reparative board. Under the board's supervision, the person must complete a restorative justice program that focuses on offender accountability and repair of harm done by the offense. The offender must return to court for further sentencing if the offender fails to complete the program.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 28, §§ 910, 910a (2023).)

Supervised Community Sentences in Vermont

With the commissioner of correction's approval, the court can order a defendant to serve a supervised community sentence. Vermont law defines supervised community sentences as a "form of imprisonment to be served outside the walls of a correctional facility." These programs might include halfway houses, day centers, community work programs, residential treatment centers, house arrest, and electronic monitoring.

Unlike other sentencing alternatives, the parole board (not the judge) reviews the offender's case. The offender must remain supervised for the minimum sentence term, at which time the board may continue supervision, release the offender on parole, or terminate supervision.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 28, §§ 351, 352, 632 (2023).)

Adult Court Diversion Program

Vermont's diversion program aims to keep certain low-level offenders out of court. A prosecutor may refer the following individuals to the program:

  • adults charged with a first nonviolent felony, and
  • adults with treatment needs who are charged with felonies that are not "listed crimes." (Find "listed crimes" in title 13, section 5301(7).)

Defendants must voluntarily agree to participate in diversion and sign a contract. Once in the program, all records of the charges remain confidential. Upon successful completion of the program, the prosecutor dismisses the charges and, after two years, the court and law enforcement seal the record—as long as the person has remained crime-free and the court is satisfied with the person's rehabilitation. Failure to complete the program means the prosecutor can reinstate the original charges.

(Vt. Stat. tit. 3, § 164 (2023).)

Criminal Statutes of Limitations for Felony Charges in Vermont

Almost all states, including Vermont, set time limits on how long prosecutors have to charge someone with a crime—called statutes of limitations. The time limits for felonies in Vermont vary by offense, with some being as short as three years and others as long as 40 years after the crime was committed. A few crimes—such as murder, sexual assault, and kidnapping—have no time limits and can be prosecuted at any time. (Vt. Stat. tit. 13, § 4501 (2023).)

Limited Expungement for Felonies in Vermont

Only a dozen or so felonies qualify for expungement in Vermont. A person must generally wait at least five years to be eligible for expungement, during which time the person must have no new convictions or charges. Any intervening convictions increase the wait period. For more information on expungement, check out this website. (Vt. Stat. tit. 13, §§ 7601 and following (2023).)

Getting Help With Criminal Charges

If you're facing felony charges, speak with a local criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. In Vermont, most felony convictions will stay on your criminal record and could lead to serious, long-term consequences. An attorney who's familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours should be able to explain how the law applies to your case, advise you about the risks and advantages of plea bargaining, and help ensure that you get the best outcome possible under the circumstances.

Talk to a Defense attorney
We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you