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Fairfax Criminal Defense Blog

Understanding Classes of Felonies in Virginia

Posted by John A. Kassabian | May 12, 2021

Handcuffs on fingerprint sheet
Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

When many people hear the word “felony,” they think of long jail sentences, unaffordable fines, and a permanent criminal record that will make life difficult if not impossible. While it's true that a felony conviction is never something you want on your record, in reality there are many classes of felonies, some more serious than others. Knowing the differences between felony classes after an arrest or conviction can clarify your situation and help you understand your rights. I'll explain the different classes of felonies in Virginia below, and discuss how a Prince William County criminal lawyer may be of help. If you are facing felony charges, don't hesitate to reach out to Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C. Regardless of the severity of the crime, John Kassabian will fight for the justice you deserve.

How are Felony Classes Determined?

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, felonies are categorized into classes from 1 to 6, with 1 being the most serious. The class of any particular felony depends on a variety of factors, including the accused person's intent, the circumstances surrounding the crime, and the seriousness of the offense.

The different classes are as follows:

Class 1: Class one felony charges are reserved for the most serious crimes, such as capital murder. Under Virginia code 18.2-31, capital murder is defined as any killing that is willful, deliberate, and premeditated. Class 1 felonies carry the harshest punishments, including the death penalty or life in prison. For this category of felony, your best bet for reducing prison time is to work with a criminal lawyer serving Prince William County.

Class 2: Class two felony charges are reserved for murders that are willful, deliberate, and premeditated, but do not qualify as capital murder, including first- and second-degree murder. Arson, kidnapping involving extortion of money, and aggravated malicious wounding are other examples of Class 2 felonies. These crimes may be punished by life imprisonment of no less than 20 years and up to $100,000 in fines.

Class 3: Class 3 felonies include shooting or stabbing a person with the intent to maim or kill them, and carry 5 to 20 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

Class 4: Class 4 felonies such as kidnapping, manslaughter, some cases of arson, and embezzlement, are punished by two to 10 years in prison and a maximum $100,000 fine. For felony classes 1-4, working with a Prince William County criminal lawyer is often in your best interest, especially if you want the best chances of reducing your jail time.

Class 5 and 6: A common question I get in my practice is: Can a Class 6 felony be reduced to a misdemeanor in Virginia? and the answer is “sometimes.” While these categories of felonies remain a serious crime in Virginia, they are known as “wobblers” because they can be sentenced as either felonies or misdemeanors. How they are sentenced depend on the particulars of the crime. (For example, a class 5 felony first offense from someone who does not have a criminal record may be more likely to be charged as a misdemeanor.) If a felony is reduced to a misdemeanor, it is often seen as significantly less serious in the eyes of the law as well as employers, landlords, and others. If you are charged with a Class 5 or Class 6 felony, you may see 1 to 10 years in prison and and/or up to $2,500 in fines as a punishment.

How a Criminal Lawyer Serving Prince William County Can Help

Even if you have committed a serious crime like murder, rape, arson or any other felonious act, a qualified felony lawyer can often help. At Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C. we have been helping area citizens receive the justice they deserve regardless of their crimes for more than two decades.

If you are facing a felony, it is typically in your best interest to hire an attorney as soon as possible, as the legal process surrounding felonies is highly complex. By hiring an attorney early on, you may be able to avoid jail before your trial or see your charges, fines, and punishment reduced.

No matter the crime you have committed, John Kassabian believes that everyone deserves a fair trial and will fight to get you the best outcome possible for your case.

Get in touch for a free consultation today at 703-750-3622 to learn more about your rights.

About the Author

John A. Kassabian

John A. Kassabian joined the family firm in 2002 after having served as a Prosecutor in Fairfax County and Prince William County. Specializing in criminal defense, traffic defense and civil related matters, John has an extensive criminal law background and has handled a wide variety of cases for ...

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