A felony is a serious crime that attracts harsher punishments. As defined by statute, felonies are punishable by imprisonment in a state or federal prison for a minimum of one year, a possible fine, and (depending on the nature of the crime) the death penalty. Examples of a felony crime include murder, aggravated malicious wounding, burglary, forgery, and wobbler offenses. For the purpose of sentencing, felonies are organized into six different classes (Code of Virginia § 18.2-10). These classes include:
- Class 1 Felony: Punishable by the death penalty, or life imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Class 2 Felony: Punishable by 20 years to life in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
- Class 3 Felony: Punishable by anywhere from five to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
- Class 4 Felony: Punishable by anywhere from two to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
- Class 5 Felony: Punishable by anywhere from one to 10 years in prison, or confinement in county jail for up to 12 months, and a maximum fine of $2,500.
- Class 6 Felony: Punishable by anywhere from one to five years in prison, or confinement in county jail for up to 12 months, and a maximum fine of $2,500.
It's important to note that Virginia has recently enacted a sweeping reform to Criminal Law and Punishment which may change the nature of charges and punishment. Some felonies are now misdemeanors. Always check with a Virginia Criminal Attorney to find out about new laws.
Virginia Criminal Court Process
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, there are different criminal procedures based on the type and severity of the crime you have been charged with. Here is a brief overview of the Virginia criminal court process for misdemeanor and felony offenses.
A police officer can arrest you with a warrant or without a warrant if the officer catches you in the process of committing the crime. A case can be initiated through an arrest or by issuing a summons.
After making an arrest, the defendant will be brought to the police station for fingerprinting, processing, and verification.
The police will take you to a judge or magistrate to determine bail. A defendant is usually allowed bail unless:
- The defendant is considered a flight risk.
- The defendant poses a danger or threat to themselves or the community.
- The defendant was charged with certain felony offenses.
This is the first hearing where you will be formally charged. During the first hearing, you will inform the court whether you plan to retain or waive representation by an attorney. It is often advisable that you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and help you build a case for your defense.
For defendants facing felony charges, a preliminary hearing will be held to decide whether there is probable cause to try the defendant for the charges brought against them. A grand jury will meet to determine whether probable cause exists or not.
Once you have been arraigned (misdemeanor cases) or indicted (felony cases), your case will move to trial. Misdemeanor cases are heard and tried in bench trials at the district court level without juries. Conversely, felony cases may be eligible for a jury trial.
If you are convicted and unsatisfied with the outcome of your case or if you believe you were sentenced unfairly, you are within your rights to file an appeal of your case. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the appeal process and ensure that you have every opportunity that your appeal will be heard.
Work With a Knowledgeable
Criminal Defense Attorney
The outcome of your criminal case can have significant ramifications on your freedom, reputation, and your future. Putting your faith in the hands of a public defender can be detrimental to your case in the long run. Public defenders are often overworked, have limited resources, and too often do not have the time to dedicate their full attention to your case. Therefore, when facing criminal charges, it is always in your best interest to hire a knowledgeable Virginia criminal defense attorney who has extensive trial experience so that they can defend your legal rights and provide you with a strong defense.
Attorney E. Gordon Peters has spent years handling criminal cases and defending clients facing both misdemeanor and felony charges. As your legal counsel, Gordon can evaluate the facts of your case, help you understand all of your legal options, and outline an aggressive defense aimed at maximizing your chances of a favorable outcome.
Using his extensive knowledge and detailed legal understanding, Gordon will help you navigate the Virginia criminal justice system and advocate for your legal rights in every stage of the legal process. Attorney E. Gordon Peters will fight vigorously to protect your rights and do everything he can to help you fight for a successful outcome. So if you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, don’t wait. Call or reach out to E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law today for help.