In Virginia, felonies are punishable by death or incarceration in state prison. Felonies in Virginia are designated as Class 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, but lawmakers may also set specific terms for certain crimes. (Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-8, 18.2-9 (2019).)
Less serious crimes (misdemeanors) are punishable by up to 12 months in jail. For more information on misdemeanors in Virginia, see Virginia Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Under Virginia’s laws, the most serious felonies are Class 1 felonies, punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000. If the defendant was over the age of 18 at the time of the offense and not intellectually disabled, Class 1 felonies may also be punishable by death. Murder is an example of a Class 1 felony. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-10 (2019).)
A Class 2 felony is punishable by imprisonment for 20 years’ to life and a fine of up to $100,000. Aggravated malicious wounding (intentionally causing another permanent and significant physical impairment) is an example of a Class 2 felony in Virginia. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-10 (2019).)
A conviction for a Class 3 felony can result in a prison term of five to 20 years and a fine of up to $100,000. Burglary is typically a Class 3 felony in Virginia. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-10 (2019).)
A Class 4 felony is punishable by two to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000. Forgery is a Class 4 felony in Virginia. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-10 (2019).)
Class 5 felonies are “wobblers,” crimes that can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on how the crime is charged and, sometimes, how the judge or jury decides to treat a conviction. Class 5 felonies in Virginia are punishable by:
Battery (causing injury to another) by a prisoner is a Class 5 felony. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-10 (2019).)
Class 6 felonies are the least serious felonies in Virginia. Like Class 5 felonies, Class 6 felonies are wobblers, punishable by:
Donating or attempting to donate blood infected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an example of a Class 6 felony. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-10 (2019).)
A statute of limitations is a time period during which the state must begin criminal prosecution. The statute of limitations begins to “run” when the crime is committed. In Virginia, the most serious crimes (including burglary, murder, manslaughter, and rape) have no statutes of limitations.
The consequences of a felony conviction are significant and can last long after a prison sentence is served or a fine is paid. Felony convictions can make it hard (or impossible) to obtain or keep certain jobs or professional licenses, or even run for public office. If you are charged with a felony, you should contact a Virginia criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney can tell you what to expect in court and how best to protect your rights.