West Virginia Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences

Learn how misdemeanor sentencing works in West Virginia, how previous convictions affect penalties, sentencing alternatives to jail.

In West Virginia, as most states, misdemeanors are crimes that carry potential sentences of no more than a year in jail and/or a fine. Felonies, in contrast, may be punished by incarceration in state prison.

Unlike most other states, however, West Virginia doesn’t classify misdemeanors in different groups 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.

Here are examples of the potential penalties for some common misdemeanors:

  • Petit larceny (theft of property worth less than $1,000): up to one year in jail and/or a maximum $2,500 fine.
  • First-offense shoplifting: maximum $250 fine if the merchandise was worth $500 or less, or up to 60 days in jail and/or a $100-$500 fine if the merchandise was worth over $500; plus a mandatory penalty paid to the store ($50 or double the value of the merchandise, whichever is greater).
  • Battery: up to one year in jail and/or a $500 fine.
  • Harassment in violation of a court order, including a domestic violence protective order: at least 90 days in jail up to a maximum of one year, and/or a $2,000-$5,000 fine.

Within the limits established in the criminal laws, it’s up to judges to decide the appropriate sentence in each case. (W.V. Code §§ 61-2-9, 61-2-9a, 61-3A-3, 61-3-13, 61-11-1, 61-11-17 (2020).)

How Previous Convictions Affect Misdemeanor Sentences

The penalties for some misdemeanors are stiffer if you had 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:

(W.V. Code §§ 17B-4-3(b), 61-2-91 (2020).)

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 term and conditions. (W.V. Code §§ 60A-4-401(c), 60A-4-407, 62-11B-4, 62-12-2, 62-12-3 (2020).)

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

  • community service or public work programs
  • weekend jail programs
  • 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.

(W.V. Code §§ 62-11A-1, 62-11A-1a (2020).)

Statutes of Limitations

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.V. Code § 61-11-9 (2020).)

Getting Legal Help

Being convicted of any crime, even a misdemeanor, could have negative consequences. If 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. So if you’re facing criminal charges, you should contact a local criminal defense lawyer who protect your rights and help prepare your case to mount the strongest possible defense.

Look Out for Legal Changes

States can change their laws at any time. You can find the current version of any statute mentioned in this article by using this search tool from the Library of Congress. But you should also know that court opinions can affect how judges interpret and apply the law, which is another reason to consult a lawyer if you're worried about actual or potential criminal charges.

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