Felonies Versus Misdemeanors in Fauquier County
A misdemeanor is only punishable by up to 12 months in a local county jail and a potential fine not to exceed $2500, or a combination of both. A felony also includes certain loss of civil rights, such as the right to vote, the right to bear firearms, and the right to hold public office. Misdemeanors typically do not have the same loss of rights but there may be some collateral consequences.
Classification of Misdemeanors in Fauquier County
Virginia has class 1-4 misdemeanors, 1 being the most serious and then 4 being the least serious. The majority of misdemeanors that bring someone to the general court and various localities of the Commonwealth of Virginia are class 1 misdemeanors. The most common ones also have the broadest potential outcome.
A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in jail
- Up to a $2500 fine
- Or a combination thereof
Specific class 1 misdemeanors may have additional penalties assigned to them. For example, if someone is charged with a class 1 misdemeanor for reckless driving, they may lose their driver’s license for six months. If someone’s charged with a class 1 misdemeanor of driving under the influence, then they lose their license for up to 12 months.
Unclassified Fauquier County Criminal Offenses
For both misdemeanor and felony offenses, there are offenses that are considered unclassified. Unclassified offenses are typically things that either are considered less than or in between the two classes that are enumerated, or they’re considered common law offenses that the court or the legislation have specific punishments for because they’re so different from other cases.
The most common unclassified felony offense is grand larceny, which is punishable by 1-20 years in prison or on the court’s discretion up to 12 months in jail and or a fine. Now the reason why that’s unclassified with such a broad range is because grand larceny can be a whole range of potential activities and they want to be able to punish repeat offenders and very serious criminal offenders much more harshly than they would punish a minor offense. This would apply, for example, if someone was convicted of shoplifting $500 worth of products versus stealing the Hope Diamond.
Possession of Marijuana
The most common unclassified misdemeanor offense is a first offense of possession of marijuana. Possession of marijuana first offense is punishable by:
- Up to 30 days in jail
- Up to a $500 fine
The reason why that’s unclassified is because the legislature has recognized that that is not quite a full class 1 misdemeanor but it’s also not quite within any other frameworks so they want to call that a special punishment for those found guilty of the possession of marijuana first offense. It’s not “decriminalized” as it is in other neighboring jurisdictions but it’s still less than a full class 1 misdemeanor.
Now a second or subsequent offense for possession of marijuana does result however in a full class 1 misdemeanor meaning second and subsequent possession of marijuana could result in up to 12 months in jail and up to $2500 fine or a combination thereof.
Prosecution of Felonies and Misdemeanors in Fauquier County
Felonies are prosecuted very aggressively in Fauquier County as they are throughout Virginia. For felony offenses, prosecutors are going to spend more time understanding the elements of each offense, trying to understand the following factors:
- The seriousness of the conduct
- The potential damage to the victim and/or the community
- How to prove the case
Felonies are viewed throughout Virginia, not just in Fauquier County, as serious offenses and those who commit felony offenses, especially repeat offenders, are punished and prosecuted aggressively. Once assigned to a certain felony offense, the prosecutor will typically follow it from either arrest or indictment all the way to sentencing. So it does give the defense attorney an opportunity to use their relationship with the county prosecutors to understand the charges and get insight on the case.