Many serious crimes in Virginia are classified as felonies. These can include a number of drug charges, such as those linked to sales or manufacturing, as well as manslaughter or murder, sex charges, serious theft allegations, white-collar crimes and weapons charges. A felony conviction not only comes with prison time, but it can also be a serious bar to further education, employment or even housing. In Virginia, there are six classes of felonies, and each has a specified penalty associated with the crime.
Class 1 felonies are the most serious; they can carry the death penalty or life imprisonment as well as a fine of up to $100,000. On the other hand, Class 2 felonies carry a prison term of 20 years to life as well as a fine of $100,000 or less. Class 3 felony convictions lead to five to 20 years in prison as well as a fine of up to $100,000.
For Class 4 felonies, once again, fines can range up to $100,000, while prison sentences can range from two to 10 years. Class 5 felonies have smaller sentences as well as fines; people convicted may receive one to 10 years in prison. However, a judge or jury could sentence someone to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine instead. The same is true for Class 6 felonies; a conviction can be accompanied by one to five years of incarceration or up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
A felony conviction can change the course of a person's life and cut off many potential avenues for change and growth. When one is accused of a crime, a lawyer could present a strong defense before trial and in the courtroom, challenging police evidence and prosecution narratives in order to avoid a conviction.