West Virginia Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences

The basics of West Virginia misdemeanor laws and penalties.

By , Legal Editor
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated October 18, 2023

In West Virginia, as in most states, misdemeanors are crimes that carry potential sentences of no more than a year in jail, plus a fine. Felonies, in contrast, may be punished by incarceration in state prison. This article reviews misdemeanor charges, crimes, and penalties in West Virginia.

How West Virginia Classifies Misdemeanors

Unlike most states, West Virginia doesn't classify misdemeanors into different groups or classes (like class A) for purposes of sentencing. Instead, the laws for each crime establish the maximum allowable penalty—and, sometimes, a required minimum penalty.

The least-serious misdemeanors are punishable by only a fine. In most cases, however, judges have the option of sentencing the defendant to time in jail, imposing a fine, or both.

(W. Va. Code §§ 61-11-1, 61-11-17 (2023).)

What Are the Penalties for Misdemeanor Crimes in West Virginia?

The most common penalties for misdemeanor charges are maximum jail sentences of 60 days, six months, or one year. Here are some examples of misdemeanor crimes and potential penalties in West Virginia.

  • Battery convictions carry up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.
  • Cyberbullying is punishable by up to six months of jail time, plus a $500 fine.
  • Harassment in violation of a court order, including a domestic violence protective order, carries at least 90 days in jail up to a maximum of one year, and a $2,000 to $5,000 fine.
  • Indecent exposure can be punished by up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine.
  • Obstructing a police officer carries a maximum jail sentence of one year, plus a fine of $50 to $500.
  • Possession of a firearm by a prohibited person is punishable by 90 days to one year in jail and a $100 to $1,000 fine.
  • A first shoplifting conviction is a fine-only offense if the merchandise was worth $500 or less.
  • Simple larceny (theft of property worth less than $1,000) is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Within the limits established in the criminal laws, it's up to judges to decide the appropriate sentence in each case.

(W. Va. Code §§ 61-2-9, 61-2-9a, 61-3-13, 61-3A-3, 61-3C-14a, 61-5-17, 61-7-7, 61-8-9 (2023).)

Enhanced Penalties for Misdemeanors in West Virginia

The penalties for some misdemeanors are stiffer if you have a previous conviction for the same crime. And for some crimes that are normally treated as a misdemeanor, you can be charged with a felony for your second or third offense. For instance:

  • Attending an animal fight becomes a felony upon a third or subsequent violation, with minimum and maximum prison sentences and fines.
  • DUI while having a suspended or revoked license is a misdemeanor for the first and second offense (with stiffer penalties for a second offense), but it becomes a felony with a third offense.
  • A second violation for revenge porn increases from a misdemeanor to a three-year felony.
  • Stalking becomes a felony for a second or subsequent offense.

Targeting certain victims can also lead to harsher penalties for misdemeanors. As examples:

  • Battery against a first responder or health care worker carries a minimum sentence of one month's jail time. A second or subsequent offense is a felony.
  • A second offense for domestic assault carries a minimum 30-day jail sentence. Subsequent offenses are felonies with prison sentences of one to five years.
  • The law imposes a mandatory jail sentence for assault or battery committed against an elderly person (age 65 or older). Probation is not permitted.

(W. Va. Code §§ 17B-4-3(b), 61-2-9a, 61-2-10a, 61-2-10b, 61-2-28, 61-8-19b, 61-8-28a (2023).)

Probation and Jail Alternatives for Misdemeanors in West Virginia

When you're convicted of a misdemeanor in West Virginia, the judge may, under certain circumstances, suspend your jail sentence and place you on probation with conditions. Those conditions could include home incarceration with electronic monitoring. In the case of a first offense for simple possession of illegal drugs (including marijuana), the law specifically says that the charges will be dismissed once you've met the probation terms and conditions.

West Virginia allows other jail alternatives for misdemeanor sentences, including:

  • community service or public work programs
  • weekend jail programs, and
  • regular release during reasonable hours for work or certain other purposes, including looking for a job, going to school, getting medical treatment, or taking care of your family's needs.

The state also has drug courts that provide intensive judicial supervision and oversight for defendants whose addiction likely contributed to the underlying offense.

(W. Va. Code §§ 60A-4-401(c), 60A-4-407, 62-11A-1, 62-11A-1a, 62-11B-4, 62-12-2, 62-12-3, 62-15-6 (2023).)

Statutes of Limitations for Misdemeanors in W.V.

A criminal statute of limitations sets the deadline for bringing charges for a crime. In West Virginia, the statute of limitations for misdemeanors is one year from the time of the alleged crime.

(W. Va. Code § 61-11-9 (2023).)

Getting Legal Help

Being convicted of any crime, even a misdemeanor, could have negative consequences. If you have to serve time in jail, you could end up losing your job or your housing. And if you run into trouble with the law again, your criminal record could result in more severe penalties. If you're facing criminal charges, contact a local criminal defense lawyer who can protect your rights and help prepare your case to mount the strongest possible defense.

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