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Bose Law Firm, PLLC
Former Police Officers

Email: bose@boselawfirm.com

Springfield Offices:
6354 Rolling Mill Place
Suite 102
Springfield, VA 22152

703-926-3900
 
HOW IS A FELONY DIFFERENT FROM A MISDEMEANOR

1. Virginia Code 18.2-9 through 18.2-11 outline the classification for both felony and misdemeanor offenses. There are four classes of misdemeanor offenses in Virginia. Class three and four misdemeanors are punishable with fines only while class one and two misdemeanors carry a potential one year or six month jail sentence respectively. There are six felony classes with the most severe punishment being class one. The chart below outlines the potential range of punishment for various classes of offenses. The chart differentiates between prison time and jail time. Prison time differs from jail time in that prison time is handled through the Virginia Department of Corrections at a designated prison facility while jail time is typically served at a county facility and managed by the local sheriff's department.

PRISON

JAIL

FINE

CLASS 1 FELONY

DEATH / LIFE

N/A

$100,000

CLASS 2 FELONY

20 YRS TO LIFE

N/A

$100,000

CLASS 3 FELONY

5 TO 20 YRS

N/A

$100,000

CLASS 4 FELONY

2 TO 10 YRS

N/A

$100,000

CLASS 5 FELONY

1 TO 10 YRS

MAX 12 MONTHS

$2,500

CLASS 6 FELONY

1 TO 5 YRS

MAX 12 MONTHS

$2,500

CLASS 1 MISDEMEANOR

N/A

MAX 12 MONTHS

$2,500

CLASS 2 MISDEMNEANOR

N/A

MAX 6 MONTHS

$1,000

CLASS 3 MISDEMEANOR

N/A

N/A

$500

CLASS 4 MISDEMEANOR

N/A

N/A

$250





























2. All misdemeanor cases and most felony cases begin in General District Court. It is likely that your first court appearance will be in General District Court and will be for arraignment. In Virginia, you are not required to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at arraignment. Rather, the purpose of arraignment is simply to notify the accused of the charge, select a court date for trial or preliminary hearing and ascertain whether you will retain, waive or request that the court appoint counsel. In many instances, an attorney may appear on your behalf at arraignment and enter with the court a notice of appearance. This means that the attorney is now the attorney of record with the court and obligated to represent you before the court.

WHAT IF I'M ALREADY IN JAIL:
If the officer placed you under arrest, he more than likely took you before a magistrate who then may have set a bond. If the bond is too high or the magistrate did not set a bond, an attorney can request by motion that a judge set a bond or reduce the bond which was set by the magistrate. Whether a judge will set or reduce the bond depends upon the gravity of the offense and the likelihood that the individual will appear in court on the assigned court date. A conviction for failure to appear will make setting or reducing a bond more difficult. Regardless, a bond motion should be done soon after your detention to avoid potentially unnecessary time in jail and to preserve your right of innocence until proven guilty.

3. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, your next court date after arraignment will be your trial date. On your trial date, the judge will hear the evidence presented by the prosecutor including the testimony of witnesses and any documents that the prosecutor may need to get into evidence. At the close of the prosecutor's case, you will also have an opportunity to present your defense by having witnesses testify, placing documents into evidence if admissible and even testifying on your own behalf if advisable by your attorney. Ultimately, the prosecutor carries the burden of proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt before a judge can find you guilty. In other words, even if you do not present a defense, a judge may still find you not guilty if there is insufficient evidence presented by the prosecutor.

TIME IS TICKING:
Virginia has a statute of limitations on certain crimes which is spelled out in Virginia Code 19.2-8. This means the charge must be brought within the time period established by Virginia Code from the date of the offense. Most misdemeanor offenses have a statute of limitations of one year. One of the more common exceptions to this rule is the offense of petit larceny which has a five year statute of limitations. There are other exceptions which may apply and the code section should be referenced. There are no statute of limitations on the commencement of felony charges.

4. While most felony cases begin in General District Court, this court does not have jurisdiction or authority to resolve felony cases. The function of General District Court with respect to felony cases is to hear evidence presented by the prosecutor through a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing or probable cause hearing as it is sometimes called, provides the accused with an opportunity to see a portion of the prosecution's case. However, since the burden of proof for the prosecutor's evidence is much lower than the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard required for trial, often the prosecutor will only present enough of the case for the judge to decide that there is sufficient evidence.

There may be times where an individual may want to waive the preliminary hearing; however, that is a strategy decision which should carefully be considered between the accused and the lawyer. If after a preliminary hearing the judge finds sufficient evidence or probable cause that the accused has been properly charged, the judge will certify the case to the Circuit Court where a Grand Jury will review the evidence and return an indictment for the offense.

5. The final resolution of a felony case is in Circuit Court. Typically, a Grand Jury will bring an indictment against the accused. Like a warrant, the indictment is the charging document used in Circuit Court. Once an indictment is brought, as in General District Court, the accused will be arraigned in Circuit Court on the felony charge and a court date will be set. The accused may either set a date for trial or for entering a guilty plea. If the case is set for entering a guilty plea, this hearing is called the disposition hearing. At this hearing the judge will advise the accused of his rights before accepting the guilty plea. Once the plea has been entered, often another hearing will be set for final sentencing if there is no plea agreement made with the prosecutor. If the case is scheduled for trial, the accused may decide whether he will accept or waive jury trial.