Virginia lawmakers designate crimes as misdemeanors (less serious crimes punishable by up to 12 months in local jail) or felonies (more serious crimes punishable by state imprisonment). Misdemeanors are classified as Class 1, 2, 3, or 4, but lawmakers can also set specific penalties. (Va. Code §§ 18.2-8, 18.2-9 (2019).)
For more information on felonies in Virginia, see Virginia Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanors in Virginia. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. If lawmakers fail to designate a misdemeanor or set forth a particular punishment, then a crime is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Domestic violence, and petit larceny are examples of Class 1 misdemeanors. (Va. Ann. Code §§ 18.2-11, 18.2-12 (2019).)
Class 2 misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. For example, possession of a schedule IV drug is a Class 2 misdemeanor in Virginia. (Va. Code § 18.2-11 (2019).)
Class 3 and 4 misdemeanors, the least serious misdemeanors, are punishable by fines, but no jail time. A Class 3 misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $500. A Class 4 misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $250. A first conviction for public intoxication is an example of a Class 4 misdemeanor. (Va. Code § 18.2-11 (2019).)
Most crimes have a statute of limitations, a time period during which the state must begin criminal prosecution or the defendant can have the case dismissed. When the crime is committed, the statute of limitations begins to "run." Misdemeanors in Virginia typically have statutes of limitations of one year. (Va. Code § 19.2-8 (2019).)
Criminal convictions, even for misdemeanors, can have very serious consequences. If you are charged with a crime, the best way to avoid a conviction is to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. A local defense attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system so that you can obtain the best possible outcome.